Gracefully Truthful

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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

2 Thessalonians 1:4-12

Therefore, we ourselves boast about you among God’s churches—about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and afflictions that you are enduring. 5 It is clear evidence of God’s righteous judgment that you will be counted worthy of God’s kingdom, for which you also are suffering, 6 since it is just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted, along with us.

This will take place at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels, 8 when he takes vengeance with flaming fire on those who don’t know God and on those who don’t obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will pay the penalty of eternal destruction from the Lord’s presence and from his glorious strength 10 on that day when he comes to be glorified by his saints and to be marveled at by all those who have believed, because our testimony among you was believed.

11 In view of this, we always pray for you that our God will make you worthy of his calling, and by his power fulfill your every desire to do good and your work produced by faith, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified by you, and you by him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Original Intent

1) How is perseverance through persecution clear evidence that God counts us worthy of His Kingdom? (verse 5)

Paul was pleased with the Thessalonian believers because they continued to remain faithful to the Lord through the trials they suffered because of Christ. Many converts were former Jews, “which angered the Jews and caused them to resort to violence and mob activity”. (Bible.org) Even amid persecution, the new Christians held to their faith, which Paul called “clear evidence of God’s righteous judgment that you will be counted worthy of God’s kingdom, for which you also are suffering”. (2 Thessalonians 1:5)

The wording here can make it sound like these Christians were worthy of God’s Kingdom because of their suffering, but that isn’t accurate. People can’t do anything to make themselves worthy of God’s Kingdom. We can only gain Heaven through Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. (Titus 3:5-7) Suffering for God’s Kingdom, though, shows love for God and faith in His Word and His promises.

It is a mark of genuine, saving faith in Christ. It is easy to fold under pressure, and enduring the face of persecution demonstrates authentic faith; it pleases the Lord when His children endure. Author Steve Lewis asserts, “Something about the Thessalonians was a plain indication . . . that God does indeed judge righteously. The indicator was not the trials themselves, but their response to the trials. Their perseverance and faith provided solid proof that God was at work within them, enabling them to behave in ways that were opposite to their natural desires.”

The fact that the Thessalonian believers allowed Christ to empower them proved they belonged to Him, had His Spirit within them, and were truly part of His Kingdom. Author David Guzik suggests “Paul’s prayer was that the worthiness of Jesus may be accounted to the Thessalonian Christians.” Paul was pleased to know the Thessalonians stood strong in their faith in Christ and His power at work in them.

The Everyday Application

1) How is perseverance through persecution clear evidence that God counts us worthy of His Kingdom? (verse 5)

I coordinate children’s church volunteers, and I quickly recognize those who will stick and those who will hand in their nametags before they even get smudged with finger paint. The ones who stay endure toddler tantrums, diaper blow-outs, eye-rolling tweens, and difficult parents because they love serving the Lord. They believe sharing the Good News of Jesus with kids is essential. Their willingness to serve, despite the challenges, blesses the Lord and plays an integral part in growing God’s Kingdom.

Truly following Jesus always means struggle and suffering. Depending on location in the world and your dynamics, that suffering looks different. Sometimes it’s loving on hard-to-love kids, being rejected by your friends, or choosing the unpopular decision to follow Jesus first. For many believers around the world, following Jesus means literally putting their lives at risk because of their faith. This was the case for the believers in Thessalonica.

In 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5, Paul wrote, “Therefore, we ourselves boast about you among God’s churches—about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and afflictions that you are enduring.  It is clear evidence of God’s righteous judgment that you will be counted worthy of God’s kingdom, for which you also are suffering.” Paul lauded the believers for walking out their faith in trying times.

Author David Guzik observes that “Where suffering is coupled with righteous endurance, God’s work is done. The fires of persecution and tribulation were like the purifying fires of a refiner, burning away the dross from the gold, bringing forth a pure, precious metal.”

When Christians experience difficult things and come through on the other side with their faith intact, they mature and develop the characteristics God desires in His Kingdom people. May we seek the Lord’s grace, wisdom, and strength to endure hard times so we can grow in our faith and fulfill the role God has for us in His Kingdom. 

The Original Intent

2) Why is it just for God to “repay with affliction those who afflict you”? (verse 6)

In verses 6-7, Paul encourages the persecuted church by writing, “it is just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you and to give relief to you who are afflicted, along with us.” This resonates with many because it doesn’t seem fair when someone is mistreated for no good reason and the perpetrator goes unpunished. Everything in us cries out for justice! 

Acting justly is a crucial component for believers in accurately reflecting God’s character. (Micah 6:8) However, God does not want us to exact justice for ourselves. (Matthew 5:38-39) He tells us vengeance is His alone. (Deuteronomy 32:35)

God instructs us to seek justice and show mercy; because He is Righteous and Just, He must let justice be served. Author David Guzik explains how “God’s judgment is based on the great spiritual principle that it is a righteous thing with God to repay those who do evil. Since God is righteous, He will repay all evil, and it will all be judged and accounted for either at the cross or in hell.”

The Scriptures tell us God is a jealous and avenging God (Nahum 1:2) and that God will judge everyone according to what they have done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10) The wicked will face the wrath of God, but Christians are righteous through Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:30) because He sanctified us through His death on the cross, which cleansed us from our sins.

He took the punishment of sin on Himself, fulfilling the justice of God. We can rejoice because, unlike those who don’t have faith in Christ, God’s wrath is turned away from us because Jesus’ blood makes us righteous before God.

The Everyday Application

2) Why is it just for God to “repay with affliction those who afflict you”? (verse 6)

Have you ever fumed at someone speeding past you at a ridiculous rate on the highway only to rejoice a few miles later to see an officer giving a speeding ticket? Something in our nature hates to see wrongdoers get off without penalty. It is satisfying to know that justice has been served. It seems easy to agree with Paul in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7 when he writes, “it is just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you and to give relief to you who are afflicted, along with us.

It is fitting for the Righteous God to enact justice on sinners, but it can be very tempting for us to take matters into our own hands. God is very clear that making wrongdoers pay is His job, not ours. Jesus tells us in Romans 12:19-20, “do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. ”

Not only does God tell us not to avenge ourselves, He tells us to treat our enemies with love. We are to show kindness and let Him repay the evildoers. Treating those who afflict me with love and letting God handle the justice is not as natural as cheering on the punishment I think they deserve, but it is what God requires.

It’s a helpful perspective to remember that, in view of God’s supreme holiness, we are all sinful and rebellious. (Romans 3:23) My prayer is that seeking justice and loving mercy becomes easier as we humble ourselves before God and allow Him to be the Righteous Judge over every situation in our lives.

The Original Intent

3) What does it mean to “pay the penalty of destruction from the Lord’s presence and from His glorious strength”? (verse 9)

Paul describes what will happen to those who persecute God’s people in verses 9-10 when he writes, “They will pay the penalty of eternal destruction from the Lord’s presence and from his glorious strength on that day when he comes to be glorified by his saints and to be marveled at by all those who have believed . . .” While Paul does mention “flaming fire” in verse 8, the greatest penalty for the wicked is being cut off from the gracious, good presence of the Lord.

Author David Spence Jones explains, As the presence of the glorified Jesus will constitute the happiness of heaven, so banishment from His presence will constitute the misery of hell, because the soul is then cut off from the source of all good and of all holiness.”

In the beginning, before sin entered the world, God walked with humans in the Garden of Eden, communing with them in perfect harmony. After their sin, Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden, never to walk in perfection with the Lord again. (Genesis 3:4-24) Their sin separated them from the presence of their Holy God.

Being deprived of God’s presence is disastrous because it is only in His presence we can find fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11) The persecutors of the saints were also cut off from the glorious strength of the Lord, for it is the joy of the Lord that is our own strength for believers. (Nehemiah 8:10)

The Everyday Application

3) What does it mean to “pay the penalty of destruction from the Lord’s presence and from His glorious strength”? (verse 9

Being a Mom means having “superpowers” such as Finder of Lost Things and Healer of Boo-Boos. But the best “superpower” is that Mom’s presence can instantly make things better. Kids sleep better and worry less when Mom’s around. A mother’s presence brings incredible peace to her children! The Lord’s presence blesses His children in infinitely greater fashion. 

Zephaniah 3:17 declares, “The Lord your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will be quiet in His love. He will delight in you with singing.” In God’s presence, we experience His salvation and the delight of His love. In John 15:5-6, Jesus remarks, “I am the vine, you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. . .” 

Jesus tells us that if we stay in His presence, we are productive and alive. Without His presence, we are like useless, withered branches. Paul describes the loss of God’s presence in verse 9, when he notes that those who persecute the Church will “pay the penalty of eternal destruction from the Lord’s presence and from his glorious strength.”

Eternal destruction is described as being apart from God forever. Author David Guzik explains how the phrase, “From the presence of the Lord”, sums up the Bible’s teaching on hell. Nothing more needs said of its horrors, other than hell will be completely devoid of God’s good presence and every kind aspect of His character. Only His unrelenting holy justice remains.

Just as being in God’s presence is a blessing, being apart from Him is punishment. We delight and take comfort in God’s presence, and we suffer when our sin separates us from the Lord. Anyone who finds themselves deprived of the Lord’s presence need only repent and turn from their sins to experience refreshing from the presence of the Lord. (Acts 3:19-20) We serve a mighty and merciful God!

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