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Thanksgiving and Prayer May 12, 2013

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
Tags: , , , ,

Here are my thoughts on 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12.

Summary: Paul begins by commending the Thessalonians – indeed, he is bound to constantly give thanks to God for them – as they are increasing in their faith and their love. In fact, he uses them as examples for other churches to follow, since their faith endues them with perseverance – sustaining them in their trials.

Paul then states that the persecutions that godly people endure from the wicked demonstrate that God will one day be the Judge of the world; moreover, these persecutions prepare believers for His kingdom. Moreover, it is necessary that the wicked be punished for their crimes; in this way God refreshes the Thessalonians – and Paul – as they endure persecutions. Indeed, Christ will bring dreadful judgment on His enemies as He brings the angels with Him to display the glory of His kingdom. Christ will inflict vengeance on unbelievers, who are ignorant about God and have contempt for Him. Unbelievers will be punished by:

  • destruction without end
  • an undying death.

At that time Christ will irradiate the godly with His glory; in particular, the Thessalonians are included with God’s holy people, since they accepted Paul’s preaching as Christ’s witness.

Paul notes that he prays for the Thessalonians, since they are constantly in need of God’s help; God’s grace is responsible for the whole progress of their salvation, and so he prays that His power would help them in a special way to reach the final goal. Paul concludes by praying that the Thessalonians would promote the glory of Christ – which is linked to their glory.

Thoughts: In this passage, we see that God will punish the wicked for their persecution of believers. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 8:

Some may ask whether it is right for us to desire vengeance, for Paul promises it as if it is correct to want it. I answer that it is not right to want vengeance on people in general, for we are commanded to wish them well. Besides, although we may in a general way desire vengeance on the wicked, yet, as we are not yet able to determine who they are, we should seek everyone’s welfare. In the meantime, the ruin of the wicked may be rightly looked forward to, provided our hearts are pure and controlled by zeal for God and there is no feeling of inordinate desire.

I know that my conscience is troubled whenever I desire vengeance on someone who has wronged me. Now I wonder if it is easier for believers who are being persecuted to “in a general way desire vengeance on the wicked”; are they more zealous for God as a result of their persecution, or do they desire vengeance on specific “wicked” people, namely, their persecutors? As for believers who are not being persecuted, are they tempted to suppress the certainty of God’s vengeance on the wicked as an unpleasant aspect of Christianity? I know that the concept of hell is rather bothersome for me, and so I rarely contemplate God’s judgment of unbelievers.

In verse 10, we see that Christ will show His glory in believers, and they will be glorified in Him. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point:

There is an implied contrast between the present condition in which believers labor and groan and that final restoration. They are now exposed to the reproaches of the world and are looked on as being vile and worthless; but then they will be precious and full of dignity, for Christ will pour his glory upon them. The purpose of this teaching is so the godly may pursue their brief earthly journey as their minds are set on the future manifestation of Christ’s kingdom.

It can be inferred that Paul’s teaching in this regard encouraged the Thessalonians as they endured persecutions and other difficulties. Now believers who are not being persecuted face a major challenge: how do they apply this passage to their situation? If the world does not view these believers “as being vile and worthless,” can they eagerly await the time when “they will be precious and full of dignity?” These believers can grow complacent in their station in life and not anticipate the awesome benefits of Christ’s kingdom, as I know from my experience. Perhaps all believers need to be persecuted to some extent so they can long for “that final restoration,” though this is a controversial position.



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