A Commentary by John Stott
2 Thessalonians 2:13-17. 3). Paul’s confidence in the stability of the Thessalonians.
Stability is a coveted quality in every sphere of human life. Governments talk about stabilizing the economy. Builders endeavour to construct stable houses, and carpenters stable furniture. Aircraft and ships have ‘stabilizers’, to counteract turbulence and the ocean swell. And we admire people who have a stable personality, character and convictions.
The New Testament says much about Christian stability. In Paul’s first Thessalonian letter he declared: ‘now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord’ (3:8). And here in his second letter, having urged them not to become ‘easily unsettled’ (2:2), he is about to issue the exhortation, *So, then, brothers, stand firm…*’ (15). In the words of Jesus we are not to be ‘like reeds shaken by the wind’ (Cf. Mt.11:7, RSV), but rather be rock-like and immovable. Moreover, the New Testament identifies the winds which threaten our stability, and against which we are to take our stand. The first is opposition or persecution (1 Thess.1:4-6; 3:2-4), the second is false teaching (e.g. 2 Thess.2:2-3; cf.Eph.4:14), and the third is temptation. Temptations are like strong gusts of wind which threaten to blow us over. That is why Paul prays that God will ‘establish’ the Thessalonians, so that they will be holy in God’s presence (1 Thess.3:13, RSV).
Behind these winds lurks the enemy of God and of the people of God, the devil, who is responsible for mounting this threefold attack, physical (persecution), intellectual (false teaching) and moral (temptation to sin). Moreover, this onslaught in its three dimensions will come to a crescendo and climax when Antichrist will be revealed. For he will inaugurate a time of unparalleled anarchy. Hell will break loose. And many will be swept away by the gale of error and evil. This is the background to the third section of 2 Thessalonians 2. It consists of a thanksgiving (13-14), an appeal (15) and a prayer (16-17). Paul turns from warning of Satan’s activity to thanksgiving for God’s, from history and its chaos to eternity and its security.
a). Paul begins with a thanksgiving (2:13-14).
The apostle repeats his own words at the beginning of the letter: *we ought always to thank God for you* (1:3; 2:13). He feels under this obligation because God is at work in their lives, because their faith, love and hope are abounding (1:3), and because God has chosen and called them, and will undoubtedly bring them safely home in the end. That is to say, in spite of present and future tribulation (ferocious, lawless and blasphemous), Paul feels no panic and adopts no panic measures. On the contrary, he expresses his assured thankfulness to God. His confidence in the stability of the Thessalonians is due entirely to his confidence in the stability of God’s loving purpose for them. It is only because God is steadfast, that we can be steadfast too.
Tomorrow: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17. 3). Paul’s confidence in the stability of the Thessalonians (continued).
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.