Your Endurance and Faith

Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians was written in the months following his departure from the city. In his first epistle, he expressed his joy at the good news that the Assembly had remained faithful despite pressure and opposition from the local population. In the second, he declares how he now boasts of the perseverance of the Thessalonians in the faith through and despite multiple “persecutions” and “tribulations.”

This second letter addresses three main issues: Persecution, believers who refuse to work, and questions about the “arrival” of Jesus and the “Day of the Lord.” In the interim since his first letter, persecution has increased, and some members of the congregation were refusing to work due to expectations about the return of Jesus.

Rocky Point - Photo by Guillermo Álvarez on Unsplash
[Photo by Guillermo Álvarez on Unsplash]

After his salutation, Paul begins by discussing the persecution of believers in Thessalonica and what it means, considering the impending end of the age.  In doing so, he sets the stage for his discussion in Chapter 2 about the “
Day of the Lord,” the coming “Apostasy,” and the “Man of Lawlessness.” Moreover, in verses 5 through 10 of Chapter 1, he provides several details on what will happen to the men who are persecuting the Assembly.

According to Paul, it is “fitting” to praise God for the present situation and the Assembly’s response to it, “because your faith is greatly increasing and the love of each of you all is abounding to one another.”

This happy condition developed not despite opposition but in the middle of “persecutions and tribulations.” Moreover, the faithfulness of the Thessalonians has become a source of inspiration to the other “assemblies” in the region. Paul expressed similar thoughts at the start of his first letter to the Thessalonians:

  • Our gospel came not to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance… And you became imitators of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation, with joy of the Holy Spirit; so that ye became an example to all those who believe in Macedonia and in Achaia” – (1 Thessalonians 1:5-7).

NOT UNEXPECTED


What Paul does not do is express shock at the upsurge in opposition, nor does he petition God to remove the Thessalonians from their “tribulations.”

Instead, he now “boasts” to other believers in the neighboring cities “on account of your endurance and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations.” The onset of persecution is no surprise, especially considering the warnings of Jesus about coming persecution - (Matthew 24:21, 24:29, Mark 13:19, 13:24).

Paul refers to “persecutions” and “tribulations” in the plural number. How intense they were we have no way of knowing. However, his use of plural nouns suggests strongly that any sudden rise in persecution was not viewed as unexpected or an aberration, at least not by the Apostle. He discussed “tribulation” in his previous letter in which he wrote:

  • Let no man be moved by these tribulations, for yourselves know that hereunto we are appointed. For truly, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we are to suffer tribulation, even as it came to pass” - (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4).

The fact that Paul now states that he and his compatriots ought to thank God for the increase of the Thessalonians’ faith and endurance INpersecutions and tribulations” points to God as the one who is strengthening their faith and enabling them to endure faithfully through the ongoing pressure (“which you are enduring”).

Island - Photo by Xavier Coiffic on Unsplash
[Photo by Xavier Coiffic on Unsplash]

This introduction leads into the letter’s second paragraph where Paul discusses what the coming “
revelation of Jesus from Heaven” will mean for the Assembly’s persecutors - (verses 5-10).

God is not unaware or unmoved by the evil machinations of hostile men, and He will vindicate His faithful children and punish those men who afflict them. In verses 11 and 12, Paul returns to his primary concern, the welfare and the faithfulness of the Thessalonian believers.

His desire is for them to be found “worthy of your calling and fulfill every desire of goodness and work of faith,” and this is so Jesus may be “glorified” in them when he arrives in glory and power “from Heaven.” All this will come to pass “according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”



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