2 Thessalonians 2
What is the main issue in this chapter?
Jesus’ Second Coming is pretty exciting. What will happen at the end of the world? Who is this “man of lawlessness” who does signs and wonders and deceives people to worship him instead of God? Is he in the world now? How soon will these things happen?
But I want to suggest that that is not the main issue. It was the issue confusing the Thessalonians and it needed to be address. It is a very important issue. So we will look at it next week.
But the main issue here is truth. Some people were saying that Jesus had already returned. That was confusing because the Thessalonians hadn’t been gathered to Him; the Kingdom hadn’t come in its fullness. Had they missed out? Were they not really Christians? Had Paul’s teaching been wrong? How do you be Christians in a crazy world where there is conflicting and confusing teaching?
But it could have been another issue. There were all sorts of other false teachings circulating. The Galatians had been persuaded that salvation wasn’t by faith in Jesus but by obeying the Law. The Corinthians were being told that Jesus hadn’t been raised from the dead. Some people in Rome believed Christians could keep on sinning. The more sin the better, because you received more of God’s grace.
It is no different today. Look at the ideas promoted via social media, the internet, television, podcasts, etc.
To see the main concern of this chapter, look at the words and concepts repeated numerous times. “Truth” is mentioned in verses 10,12 and 13. Lying and deception are mentioned in verses 3, 9, 10 and 11. Verse 2 talks about “teaching allegedly from us… asserting that the day of the Lord has already come”. False teaching, not from Paul. Verse 15 talks about holding fast to the teachings that had come from Paul.
We are told we live in a post-modern world where there is no truth. Actually, I am not sure if we still do. Now people are reacting against alternative facts and fake news and people object to things that are demonstrably wrong. People are demanding truth. Maybe we do believe in truth again.
You might be thinking Donald Trump but think also Metiria Turei. Is it wrong to gain financial advantage by deception or do the circumstances justify it? Is it absolute or is it relative?
Post-modernism says there are no absolute truths. What is true for you might not be true for me. It is all relative. “Absolute” means it is true no matter what. It is always true. “Relative” means that it changes depending on the circumstances. What was true yesterday might not be true today. What is true in Dunedin might not be true in Mosgiel. It all depends. People might say, “Don’t claim to tell me the truth because I have a different truth.”
Which is true? Are there absolute truths or are there not?
As many people have pointed out, post-modernism contradicts itself. Post-modernism says, “There is no truth”. Is that true? If it is true that there is no truth, the statement is not true.
Paul would have laughed (or cried) at the idea that there is no truth. The whole passage is about truth and lies; truth and deception, false teaching versus the truth.
How important is truth? Look at the three verses that explicitly mention truth.
2 Thess 2:10 …They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
2 Thess 2:12 …all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness
2 Thess 2:13 …God chose you… to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and through belief in the truth.
Our salvation, or our damnation, depend on what we do with the truth.
Verse 10 talks about loving the truth. Verse 12 and 13 talk about believing the truth. Verse 15 talks about holding fast to the teachings.
I guess we understand believing and holding fast to the truth but loving the truth is an interesting expression. Verse 10 is very strong: They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
Do you love the truth? Here perhaps are some indicators that you do love the truth
- You love the word of God. You are drawn to reading it and studying it.
- You love comparing what God says with the attitudes of the world and you opt for what God says
- You love sorting out fact from fiction because you value facts.
- If you discover you are wrong, you change your views because truth is important.
- You stand up to defend the truth even if there is a cost for you. You cannot stand lies.
- You don’t flirt with all sorts of intriguing ideas that are contrary to the word of God.
Those who will perish refuse to love the truth (v.10). It is not that they don’t have enough information or the wrong information. They know what the truth is, but they refuse to love it. They don’t want to.
Many people who say they don’t believe in God, don’t want to believe in God because to admit that would mean they have to turn away from their sin, and they don’t want to. It is not that they cannot believe; it is that they will not. The choice is not truth versus error. It is truth versus sin.
John 3:19-20 19 This is the verdict: light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.
I’ve been listening to the Black Hands podcasts about the Bain murders and I have realised that, in my heart, I am hoping it shows that David is innocent. Why am I biased about that? I don’t know. Shouldn’t I simply want the truth to come out? Do I love the truth or do I have an agenda of my own?
When I read the Bible, do I read to learn truth from God or do I have an agenda of my own?
A rich young ruler came to Jesus asking what he had to do to enter the Kingdom of God (Mt 19, Mk 10, Lk 18). Jesus told Him: keep the commandments. He said, “I have”. Then Jesus said, “Sell all your possessions and give the proceeds to the poor.” I am assuming Jesus knows about how people can enter the Kingdom and His answer was tailor-made truth for that man. The truth was that he had made a god of his wealth. Unfortunately, his love for his money was greater than his love for the truth Jesus spoke. He asked but then he didn’t want to know.
I’ve noticed in Bible studies sometimes that people will say they don’t like certain biblical teachings. What we like is not the point. We do not get to choose what is true and what is not.
I watched a Youtube video the other day asking if it was biblical to say that God loves everybody unconditionally. That is said so often: God loves everybody. God’s love is unconditional. The answer, on the video, was no. Oh! We would like to believe that God does but what does the Bible say?
In 2 Thessalonians, Paul points out a terrible sequence. When people refuse to love the truth, God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie. If people decide they love sin more than the truth about God, God says, “OK, have it your way” and they become even more entrapped in the sin. If we turn away from the light, God makes the darkness even darker.
See this sequence?
- They love sin more than truth.
- God says, “OK”.
- Their situation gets worse; they get more entrapped in the falsehood.
- They are condemned.
Verse 12 again describes the contrast: instead of believing in the truth they delighted in wickedness. The distinction is not between truth and falsehood but between truth and wickedness. People have to choose between truth and sin.
But there is another side to this: The Thessalonians show that God saves those who do love the truth.
2 Thess 2:13-14 13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Look at the sequence there.
- God chose them
- God called them through the gospel
- They believed the truth of the gospel. Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again.
- The Holy Spirit works to sanctify them
- God’s purpose was that one day they would share the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Even there, there might be some things that cause us to say, “Um, I’m not sure I like that idea.” So, even this passage (even this sermon) become a test case. Do we love the truth even when the truth disturbs us?
I missed out 5 and 6 but they are perhaps the most important part of this passage. In this crazy world, what are we to do while we wait to share Jesus’ glory? 5. is up to us. 6. relies on God.
2 Thess 2:15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
5. Stand firm and hold fast to the truth.
Christians in a crazy world, stand firm. Do not give up. Do not give in to the pressures. Truth might be very unpopular but stand firm and hold fast to it. Do not go with the flow and adopt the ideas and philosophies of the world. Hold fast to the Bible. Stand firm; hold fast to the teachings.
Earlier, Paul had said, “Do not let anyone deceive you. Do not be unsettled or alarmed by this teaching.” Essentially, that is the same thing: stand firm, hold fast to the truth.
2 Thess 2:16-17 16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
6. May God encourage and strengthen you.
May Jesus and God the Father, who saved us in the first place – assuming that we have been saved. If you have not yet got to step 3 and believed the truth of the gospel and trusted in Jesus as your Saviour, I urge you to do that. Love the truth that Jesus died for you. Love that more than your sin.
But, where that is the case, may Jesus and God the Father encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
That is my prayer for all of us.