Standing Secure in Christ
2 Thessalonians 2:13–17
False teaching had shaken the Thessalonians’ faith. It had persuaded them they were living in the Day of the Lord (the Tribulation) and experiencing God’s wrath. To correct this doctrinal error, the apostle Paul explained that three events must take place before the Day of the Lord’s wrath arrives:
1. The Rapture. The church must be raptured from Earth (1 Th. 1:10; 5:9).
2. The Removal. The restrainer must be removed (2 Th. 2:7).
3. The Revelation. The “lawless one” (Antichrist) must be revealed (v. 8).
Although it was important to teach about these coming prophetic events, Paul also knew he had to provide practical instruction on how to live victoriously while awaiting the Lord’s return.
Chosen In Christ
The apostle abounded with thankfulness to God for choosing the Thessalonians to be saved (cf. 1 Th. 1:2; 2:13; 3:9; 2 Th. 1:3; 2:13): “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Th. 2:13).
Paul and his missionary team felt continually compelled to thank God for bestowing salvation on the Thessalonians. Thus, they were “brethren,” loved not only by God, but also by Paul and his team. Reminding them of God’s great work, Paul reviewed the steps of God’s redeeming grace:
First, God selected them “for salvation” (v. 13). In eternity past, He chose them through His sovereign love and grace, not because of any merit on their part. His elective purpose is unknown, even to those He chooses. Furthermore, even the chosen must receive Christ individually and of their own volition.
Second, God sovereignly redeemed and delivered them from the power, penalty, and ultimate presence of sin. Salvation is bestowed on the chosen when they accept the finished work of Jesus on the cross and receive Him as personal Savior.
Third, God set them apart “through sanctification by the Spirit” (v. 13). That is, God the Father sanctifies sinners for salvation through the working of the Holy Spirit. At the time of salvation, the Holy Spirit performs five ministries: He regenerates (Jn. 3), indwells (14:16–17), seals (Eph. 4:30), baptizes into the church (1 Cor. 12:13), and fills believers (Eph. 5:18).
There are three stages of sanctification: positional, progressive, and perfect.
Positional. First, as believers, we are set apart eternally to God at the time of our redemption, through receiving Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:10, 14; 13:12).
Progressive. Second, we are being sanctified daily as we live out the teachings of God’s Word.
Perfect. Third, we will be perfected, or complete, in our sanctification after receiving our resurrected bodies when the Lord raptures His church (Eph. 5:27).
For their part, the Thessalonians submitted to “belief in the truth” (2 Th. 2:13). The word truth refers to the gospel of Jesus Christ (cf. Eph. 1:13) that proclaims His substitutionary death for sin, followed by His burial and resurrection to life (1 Cor. 15:1–4).
Thus, there is no work we can do to merit or acquire salvation. Our redemption is effected by the triune God. God the Father chooses the individuals; and the Holy Spirit leads them to act in faith to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Jn. 14:6), resulting in their eternal salvation.
This scenario contrasts sharply with and condemns all who follow the Antichrist mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:9–12. Notice, they had no “love of the truth, that they might be saved” (v. 10). For this reason, God gives them “strong delusion” to believe the Antichrist’s “lie” (v. 11).
Confirmed In Christ
Paul confirmed the call of those who came to faith in Christ after hearing the gospel: “He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 14).
Although believers were divinely chosen for salvation in eternity past, salvation only becomes efficacious when we receive the gospel’s message and place our faith in Christ. The gospel reveals to all mankind God’s eternal plan of salvation.
The phrase for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ looks forward to the ultimate consummation of our salvation, when all believers will share in Christ’s glory (Jn. 17:22; Rom. 8:17; 1 Th. 2:12). When we receive our glorified bodies at the Rapture (1 Cor. 15:5–53; 1 Th. 4:13–18), our sin natures will be eradicated; and we’ll possess the honor, praise, majesty, and holiness of Christ that is the hope of all Christians.
We also will possess and enjoy unbelievable access and eternal communion with Jesus Christ as a joint heir in His Kingdom (Rom. 8:17). This privilege even extends to sitting on Christ’s throne (Rev. 3:21) while reigning with Him (5:10; 20:6) during the thousand years of the Millennial Kingdom. This concept transcends our comprehension and understanding. Could there be any greater reward?
Commitment In Christ
After painting a beautiful picture of what all Christians possess in salvation and the ultimate glory that awaits them, Paul reminded the Thessalonians of their responsibility: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2 Th. 2:15). Our call to salvation requires our total commitment to Christ.
By telling the Thessalonians to “stand fast,” Paul was simply admonishing them to get a tight grip on what they believed, both mentally and physically, and not to doubt or look back to what false teachers were saying. That is, we must not be shaken or agitated by what we hear or read from false teachers (v. 2).
The word traditions refers to apostolic teaching received either by “[spoken] word” or “epistle” (written letter). The Thessalonians were to be careful and faithful in remembering the teaching and keeping a tight grip on it (cf. 2 Tim. 3:14–15).
Today the word tradition has taken on a pejorative meaning, such as sacramentalism, developed by the church of the Middle Ages. Sacramentalism held strong sway over the church in that day, rendering people ignorant of God’s Word, especially concerning how to become saved.
This was not the case in Paul’s day when tradition referred to biblical doctrines that carried apostolic authority. Paul continually warned churches to be rooted and built up in Christ, as they had been taught, and to guard against falling prey to the traditions of men (cf. Col. 2:7–8).
Comfort In Christ
The believers in Thessalonica had a glorious inheritance awaiting them in heaven. In the final two verses, Paul transitioned from exhorting the church to offering a comforting prayer: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work” (2 Th. 2:16–17). Only through prayer can the church navigate the minefield of persecution and false doctrine.
Paul was praying to “our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father” (v. 16). Our personalizes the redemptive relationship and implies intimacy between Christ and believers in Him.
The word Lord is Jesus’ title. It refers to His honor, superiority, and sovereignty and tells us His very nature is to be reverenced as divine. Therefore, Christ is to be worshiped as God. His human name, Jesus, means “God saves” and is first mentioned in Matthew 1:21: “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Notice, “God and Father” (2 Th. 2:16) comes second rather than first in Paul’s prayer. Though the reason is not given, it may be because of His role in the Thessalonians’ redemption. It does show that Christ is divinely coequal with the Father, especially when it comes to salvation. It is through the Son that God the Father revealed Himself to the world (Jn. 1:18).
Both God the Son and the Father bestow divine love on the redeemed (2 Th. 2:16). This love is timeless and immutable and continues to this very moment. This knowledge was a great word of comfort to the confused Thessalonians undergoing severe persecution and affliction.
In His redemption and love, God has provided an “everlasting consolation and good hope by grace” (v. 16) for all believers in Christ. The word consolation means “comfort” and “solace.” It is “everlasting” because God’s consolation never ends during our pilgrimage on Earth.
Along with this consolation comes the “good hope,” which is grounded in the unfailing promise of Christ’s imminent return to rapture His church. This hope resides in the sphere of God’s “grace” because it is wholly a part of God’s redemptive plan and brings joyful expectation to the redeemed in every age.
Paul concluded chapter 2 by praying that the “Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father . . . comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work” (vv. 16–17). He asked God to comfort, encourage, establish, and bring stability to everything the Thessalonian believers said and did as they matured spiritually.
Paul’s message is for every Christian today who faces opposition, anxiety, and discouragement. Take this message to heart, and know you stand secure in Christ!