Stand Firm and Hold to the Faith – 2 Thessalonians 2:15

“So then” (Ἄρα οὖν) is a common Pauline way of drawing a logical conclusion to a section. Since his readers have been chosen by God as the first to share in the Gospel, they will be glorified at the time of Christ’s return (2:14). If this is true, then they ought to respond to this reality in the following two ways:

Image result for stand firmFirst, the Thessalonians are to “stand firm” (στήκω). This verb has the sense of being firmly committed to something (BDAG). This stands in contrast to Paul’s description of the church at the beginning of this chapter: they were unsettled and alarmed by a report that then Day of the Lord already come. Rather than be shaken by the teaching which contradicted what Paul had taught them, they ought to stand firm in what they know to be the truth.

Second, the readers are told to “hold on” (κρατέω) to the traditions Paul has passed along to them when he was with them or by his earlier letter. Once again, this is necessary since it is possible the disturbing report came to the church from a letter claiming to be in Paul’s name. In 1 Thessalonians Paul was very clear his appeal to the church was not motivated by greed nor was he using rhetoric to fool them into believing something which was not true.

It is very important to notice here that Paul says he passed along traditions (τὰς παραδόσεις). This implies there was a body of teaching Paul could “hand down” to his churches, some of which Paul says he had received from those who were before him. This includes teachings about the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:23) and the resurrection (1 Cor 15:3-5). Although there are some things Paul says he received from the Lord directly (1 Thess 4:15), others are part of a growing doctrinal and ethical tradition Paul delivers to his churches and expects them to hand down to the next generation of believers.

Third, Paul tells the Thessalonians to be encouraged and strengthened in both deed and word (2:16-17). This benediction is something of a conclusion to the first part of the letter. The benediction in 2:16-17 is a prayer to the Lord himself to give the readers strength to hold on to Paul’s teaching. There are two parts to Paul’s wish for the church. First, “Encourage your heart…” This is an inward action, although “encourage” might be a bit soft. In 3:12, Paul uses the same verb to strengthen a command (translated “we urge.”) What is in mind is the Lord prodding and urging the heart to keep the command to hold tight to the teachings Paul gave them.

Second, Paul prays that the Lord would strengthen his readers. This is an external action, an enablement to do the action commanded. Even if the Lord nudges you to do the right thing, it is still possible for you to ignore that urging. The point of this part of the prayer is to actually follow through and do what must be done.

The encouraging and strengthening is to be done “in deed and word.” There is a relationship here “between inward encouragement and outward behavior.” (Wanamaker, 1-2 Thessalonians, 272). Paul does not want his congregation to say one thing and do another.

This section of 2 Thessalonians has some very real application to the modern church. There are occasionally strange teachings which do not conform to the “traditions handed down” and cause some in the church to be unsettled or alarmed. The recent weirdness about the solar eclipse is a case in point. Even a few reasonable people I know were seriously considering this as a “sign of the end.” (Short answer: it was not a sign of the end). Sometimes a popular writer will publish a book with a new or radical reading of Scripture, the church ought to evaluate it in the light of the “traditions handed down.” But from a contemporary perspective, what are those traditions? Is this just Scripture? The Nicene Creed? Do denominational commitments matter? How does the church strengthen itself so that it can stand firm and hold fast to the “traditions handed down” yet still respond to a culture where traditions like this are meaningless?

16 thoughts on “Stand Firm and Hold to the Faith – 2 Thessalonians 2:15

  1. The statement “stand firm” is a strong statement to not only Paul’s audience but to us as well. Just as you pointed out at the end, what does this mean to the modern times? To hand down tradition is not a bad thing. Especially since Paul wanted them to keep them for if they were to let go then they would fall prey to any false doctrine. I do not think this is the kinda “tradition” that Jesus was so against. For that tradition desensitized their awareness of God and His grace. So Scripture does matter, it is to be spoken, taught and lived. It is a map that warns of the traps and leads us in the path of life.

    Would denominations today be okay then? If these traditions are legalistic and far from the heart of God then no. Yet, whatever we do, whether we eat or drink, do it all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). This is another reason why “stand firm” is a strong statement for why would you stand firm in something that is not even effective or impactful?

    How the Church can respond is to stand firm what God has said and what He is saying now. Whatever our culture, Christian or secular, we are to be countercultural because God is countercultural to this world. He is not a God of tradition but of grace and life. We are to hold fast to that life in order to remain free from yeast that affects the whole batch of dough (Galatians 5:9).

  2. Standing firm is something even our generation of Christians struggle with today. With all the outside distractions such as non believers, people who believe in other religions, and possible sins that could be tempting to some. I couldn’t imagine how difficult their faith was tested when the letter came in describing that it was from Paul, so it is almost like why wouldn’t they believe what the letter was saying? I think that Paul asking praying for the Lord to push the readers to take heed of what he is saying is a little pointless because God gave mankind free will for a reason so even if he gives hints to put someone in the right direction, if the person doesn’t want to listen to something then they won’t.

  3. “Standing firm” and “Holding on” can be hard things to live by. It is our human nature to so what we want and to lean on our own understanding. This though is not how God wants us to lead our lives. Paul wants the people of Thessalonica to do these two things regardless of where the world is or what is said. Standing firm in what we know can be hard if there are others saying something totally different but that is the way of life. Never is there going to be a situation where everyone is a group gets along or agrees about the same thing. Holding on to the truth of God can also be hard as we all go through struggles some worse than others but in those times, we blame God for them rather than praising Him for the difficult times that we can grow in and learn from.
    There are times where we struggle in trusting in God with all of our hearts and that is when we need others to help redirect us to what is true about our God. “Indeed, he devotes over one-third of the letter seeking to calm, correct, and redirect his Thessalonian brothers and sisters regarding the Lord’s coming” (TTP, pg. 75). Just as Paul did for the Thessalonians everyone has a person that can help then grow and move their eyes back on got so we can indeed “stand firm” and “Hold fast” to what is true. This is where the church must come together and help each other as we falter and at times lose our way.

  4. When evaluating new ideas, I do not think the church does a good job at it in general much less through the scope of tradition and culture. It seems to me that “traditions” in the church have become nothing but grumbling about worship style, carpet color, and order of service. If we look at the way the church interacts with the current culture there are on the one side, more “progressive” churches that embrace the culture so much to the point that it becomes a show of who looks the most hipster/attractive and there’s the other side of the spectrum where they refuse to put drums into their worship time because its too loud for their hearing aids. That is definitely a generalization and this might be a cynical point of view, but it seems to me that some of these biblical traditions that Paul wanted passed down, have already been thrown out the window by the church today.
    Church has become a performance. A routine. A building we go to for 2 hours a week to justify that we are good people without actually looking at our hearts and evaluating what is really going on. The culture today is much more progressive than the church and that is probably the reason that Millennial’s are statistically the lowest attending population. That is no excuse for Millenial’s by any means, because there are many who have weak and watered down theologies because they would rather just attend somewhere that makes them feel good or not attend at all.
    It seems to me that the church has started to reject culture rather than redeem it. The church will only begin to strengthen itself when it really embraces the bible again and re-learns how to stand firm in the faith rather than standing firm in the same exact seat week to week. This is obviously easier said than done, but we have an opportunity to use the current culture to our advantage. To embrace new patterns of thinking that will challenge the church. A different perspective that will make us realize what traditions we need to hold to and continue to pass on and what we need to let go of in order to be healthier for the future of the church as a whole.

    (I dont even know if that makes sense)
    ((feel free to tear me apart, that was all word vomit))

  5. As any ‘good’ Christian child would say, the answer is always Jesus. For the church to strengthen itself so that it can stand firm, believers need to be in the Word—completely. Every single aspect being written in these comments is true. Yes, we are supposed to look different than those of this World. Yes, trusting God is difficult. Absolutely! —a great amount of the traditions which are trying to be upheld, are not even a sliver of what Christians’ lives are meant look like. Galatians states “…it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say ‘it is through faith that a righteous person has life” (Gal 3:11). Later, Paul expresses “…may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen” (Gal 6:18). In today’s day, Christians have plagued themselves into two categories: either one follows the law to a tee and completely forgets to address the stronghold sin has on our culture or one gets sucked into the culture while attempting to revive it because their foundation is not yet firm. One could argue that both upholding traditions while still loving those who do not know Christ are correct. As Christians, we are meant to follow Christs’ teachings. Yet, still we are also told not be lukewarm and rather go preach the Gospel. I would argue that if one made Christ and His Word the absolute most important thing in their life, there would be no room for both stubbornly following useless [easy] traditions or believing that the World needs something other than Christ himself. The Bible should show us how to demonstrate to our culture which traditions [becoming a new Christian in Christ and through grace, pursuing a life without sin]. are to be upheld, rather than the false idea that we need worldly shaming traditions.

  6. There are a lot of situations that life throws at us. Some annoying and petty, but others fill us with doubt. That doubt can cause everyone to question if they are doing the right thing. When Paul is telling them to “stand firm” and “hold on,” I think it is truly a message that we all need to be absorbed, no matter how hard it may seem, God calls us to be bold and know the truth. “God wants believers to be joyful, prayful, and thankful. These are marks of Christ’s rule and reign amid the nitty-gritty realities of life,” (TTP, pg. 73). Paul wanted them to stand firm in what they know to be true and what he had taught them. And how we know if the message is received or not, is how they responded to different life situations. In reality, the dumb little problems in life should not consume us if we are holding on to what God is calling us to do. “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hears and strengthen you in every good deed and word,” (2 Thess. 2:16-17). When it comes down to it, in order to stand firm and hold fast, there needs to be a change of heart. And with that comes with trusting in God to give you discernment on what is right and wrong.

  7. This is an interesting and difficult question to address because even many of the commands given throughout Scripture have been abandoned as not applicable to our time and culture. A dispensational understanding of Scripture could entail that Christians today are only required to follow commands given within the dispensation of grace. Many Christians look at the teachings of the New Testament to at least be more relevant to today’s society but even then will dismiss some that do not align with their concepts of right and wrong. The Roman Catholic church was deeply entrenched in many traditions and the Protestant church was in many ways a reaction against some of those traditions. Personally, I have distrust and skepticism of the legitimacy of many denominations and think denominational differences often bring division rather than unity. The only traditions that I deem particularly important are baptism and worship in song. I also believe that the Scripture is the inerrant word of God. Without the foundation of Scripture and the message of the gospel there is nothing for the church of today to stand on. The church must remain prayerful and intent on seeking the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit to stand firm. They must also look to the Bible to remember God’s story and his instructions just as Paul reminded the Thessalonian church of his instructions to them while he was with them.

  8. Blog Post #2
    PT 2
    Standing firm and holding on to faith can be somewhat difficult in modern times because so many people idolize so many different things that they tend to lose sight of what really matters. So many people tend to forget about our Lord for so many different reasons; for example when there is a new presidential election, or a new hip-hop artist that steals the attention of the world we often focus on nothing but them, although their influences are quite usually short lived. That is why it is so imperative that we strengthen our relationship with the man who really matters, Jesus Christ for He is eternal and He will always be there for us no matter what situation life may put us in. The best way in strengthening our relationship with Christ would be to divulge in the Word and live our life the way God intended us to. According to (TTP 62) Paul offers a wish to all believers that God will strengthen them so that they will be “blameless” or innocent when our Lord and Savior returns. 2 Thessalonians:15 is an excellent verse to live by stating “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”. I also think that holding on to faith is a very important thing to live by too, and personally I think that holding on to faith means that we need to have hope. We need to trust that our Lord and Savior will return and he will save all believers, therefore; standing firm in the word and holding on to faith are the most pivotal things one can do to truly please God and our Savior for when we do these things correctly and honestly we will join him on judgement day.

  9. As Christians, we are to live in this world but not be of it. Romans 12:2 says to not conform to the patterns of this world (Romans 12:2). But what does that look like? How are we to know what is from God and not the world? 2 Thessalonians 2 ends with talking more about this. A phrase that is used in the Bible is “stand firm.” We see it in Ephesians 6:11, 1 Peter 5:9, Philippians 1:27, Philippians 4:1, 1 Corinthians 16:13 and others. Long states that this means “to be firmly committed to something” (Long, 2017). Paul tells the people in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 to stand firm in what they have been taught and to not to be influenced by things that are not true. This is something that is still relevant for us today. We have the Bible “handed down” to us as teachings and words to follow. It is important for us to realign ourselves with God and His word when we hear things in our culture. We need to stay rooted in what we are taught. However, this can be difficult in a world that does not believe in these things or believes these “traditions” are meaningless (Long, 2017). People try to say that the Bible is not relevant anymore. We know that “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), and that the Bible is used for “for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:26-17). These concepts can be harder to comprehend for non-believers that may try to sway us. Paul then prays for the readers to hold onto this and for God to strengthen us. Therefore, it is important to stay firm in what we have been taught like Paul tells us, and to let God strengthen us in an influential world.

  10. “Stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter” (2:15). Easy right? Wrong. That is something that every generation of the Faith has struggled with from Adam and Eve all the way to today. Why? Because the patterns of this world are not very pleasant to those who have Faith and we are called to not conform to them (Rom. 12:2). It seems like there is always this tension between the Church and the world around them. They do not agree and if one is not strongly rooted in the Church then the world seems to win. If we “stand firm” in our beliefs as Christians then Christ will give us the strength to not fall into the pattern of the fallen world surrounding the Church. The Church is meant to be a safe place for the weak and the broken, but if we do not live by the Word outside of the Church then the world will overcome you. That is why Paul is so drawn to the idea of encouraging one another so that they may overcome the worlds temptations like sexual immortality, as the Thessalonians were struggling with, and be ready because the day of the Lord has not yet come.

    The same can be taken away today, we have the written Word of God that still works in the lives of those who read and believe it. It is still powerful and living changing even today. However, if we do not trust and cling onto the Truth everyday of your life then this world will beat you down and lead you away from the Truth. Paul never says it is going to be easy but it will be worth it when the day comes where Jesus Christ comes and destroys evil and rises up those who believe.

  11. The words stand firm and hold to the faith are super important in this insert. Paul talks a lot about these phrases. The biggest thing that he says about it is that we need to stick to the deed and also stick to the word. In other words we need to do what we say we are going to do. This is very important as Christians. Being able to not only talk but also live out your faith. In that it will be hard God never told us it would be easy. There is a season for everything. In that we need to stand firm and hold to the faith like Paul is talking about. Not everything is going to go your way, and it will be very hard to keep the word and deed part all together because we are sinners but it’s a challenge, a challenge to discipline and Godly living. Which I believe we are all called to.

  12. In modern society it’s hard to stand firm in anything you believe in, especially within the last year. It seems to be even more difficult to hold on to the traditional faith that we are entitled to have as Christians. In the eyes of the media there are many things that portray things in different ways that may be far from the truth in order to convince us to sway our outlook on certain subjects; as the younger generations grow up in this it’ll be harder to keep traditional faith alive.

    Unfortunately this is where sometimes a denominational commitment matters, for example a postmodern church is very different from an AOG church, theologically and traditionally they are two very different things. Thus it either creates a negative / false or a positive / true impact depending on how one looks at it. I don’t feel as though typically denominational commitments matter as long as the core values of believers are alike (theology can be a bit rocky just because there is really no solid / perfect theology one can follow). When looking at these two different churches as a whole there is foundationally a lot more support for a member of the AOG church to stand firm and hold strong rather than that of a postmodern church goer. The postmodern movement doesn’t have much foundation to it other than a “feeling” or “because that’s just the way it is”. More young people are drawn to the postmodern church because it has less traditional views, in the near future this will make it harder for these generations to hold onto the faith in Christ.

    Personally when it comes to speaking about traditions I think of faith traditions and how we should uphold living a Christ-like life and while holding on to the faith tradition we will stand firm in what we believe. As time goes on it’ll culturally get harder to stand firm, hold onto, and be steadfast in the Lord, but we need to cling on to His truth and not the portrayed truth of the world.

    1 Corinthians 15:58
    Philippians 1:27
    Philippians 4:1

  13. Throughout 2 Thessalonians, Paul is trying to encourage the believers to stand firm in the truth that they know and to not be distracted or swayed by the world around them. As Christians, we can get caught up in what is popular in our culture, or by “false” teachers or people that are just misguided. We can be drawn to what people are saying and forget the truth that we know, a truth that Paul urges the believers in Thessalonica to hold to. Part of Paul’s message is that the believers “do not let anyone deceive [them] in any way” (2 Thess. 2:3). Paul was speaking about what the believers had been hearing about the end times and that Christ had already returned, they had just missed it. Naturally, this would cause confusion and anxiety among young believers who had a hope in the return. But we do this same thing today when people claim that Jesus is returning. We let ourselves get caught up in trying to understand when God is returning, that we can believe when people say He will be here soon. But we need to hold to the truth we know, that no one knows when He will return, and that Jesus will come for those who believe in Him, and He won’t miss anyone.

  14. It is interesting to me the difference between the phrases “stand firm” and “hold on.” In my mind, I equate the two because they carry a very similar connotation, at least in modern English. To tell someone to “stand firm in what they believe in” and to “hold on to what they believe in” implies that when challenges arise they are not to neglect what they believe in, but rather cling to it as truth. To see that “stand firm” implies that Paul is telling them not to be shaken by rumors and false teachings and “hold on” implies the traditions they have learned makes the passage seem less repetitive. It is important to note how Paul’s other letters shed more light on what it is that he has passed down to the church that he instructs them to hold on to. It is not defined in 2 Thessalonians what traditions they are to hold on to, but when read as a whole with the other letters Paul wrote, those traditions become clear. The blog mentions teachings in 1 Corinthians about communion and the resurrection. I also think it is super important that Paul prays the readers of his letter be strengthened and that this prayer is a prayer that believers might follow through when they feel a nudging from God. This was obviously relevant in their culture, and it is still very relevant. Often we are inclined to say that something was a coincidence, a chill, or propose some other explanation, rather than an urging from God. Because we are first of all bad at recognizing an urging from God, we are secondly, very bad at following through on that. Just because something seems silly or impossible does not mean we should not follow that urging from God. As a society today, we ought to be praying that believers would recognize the urging of the Lord and that they would follow through on it. This aligns their words and actions in a way that pleases God.

  15. In most churches, there are many traditions that are firmly held on to. For some, it might be singing hymns or how the service order or preaching is done. For many, change can be very difficult, and is often meant with negative pushback. Therefore, looking at 2 Thessalonians 2 gives some advice on what to look for when we are concerned with change in our church traditions. The main idea of the passage is to stand firm and hold to the faith. With standing firm, Paul is urging on his fellow Thessalonians to not let go of their commitment to God. As Long points out, the Thessalonian church felt unsettled about a new teaching that wasn’t the one given by Paul. Therefore, if a new teaching in the church shies away from what is written in the inspired Word of God, reject their teaching and stand firm in the real truth. With Paul’s exhortation to hold on to faith, there are some man-made traditions that don’t change the gospel message that can be altered or cast aside all together, but traditions like the Lord’s Supper should not be forgotten because rituals like this strengthens our faith. Another key point Paul gives to the church is to encourage or urge the heart of fellow believers. Therefore, if the modern church is not preaching from the Word and encouraging each other, there is a deeper root problem that needs to be addressed rather than whether we sing hymns or not. And finally, Paul prayed for the church. We, then, should pray that the Lord strengthens our leaders in the church and the leaders of the church should pray for their congregation.

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