2 Thessalonians 1:1-12 – God is just

2 Thessalonians 1v1-12

 

GOD IS JUST.

 

Introduction.

 

ILLUS.: We have all seen films or read stories about rich and powerful people or corporations who exploit and badly treat the small guy. A person who stands up for their rights or the rights of others and is squashed. The small powerless person fights back and when they win it makes us feel good. I like those kind of stories – John Grisham has written some really good ones – “Pelican Brief, The Firm, Street Lawyer ……”

 

Why do these kinds of stories give us a real sense of satisfaction? Because there is within most of us the deep desire to see justice done – to see good triumph over evil.

 

The desire for justice is even greater when we are personally the victims of injustice or unfair treatment. We want those who have caused us pain and difficulty to pay for their actions. The desire for vengeance is incredibly strong. When we are hurt our natural desire to it hurt those who have hurt us.

 

The Thessalonians Christians were in an extremely hostile situation. We know this from the first letter that Paul wrote them – they suffered at the hands of their own countrymen and from outsiders. Now in his second letter he mentions their hardships and persecutions again and commends them for their perseverance and encourages them to continue in the power of God. He does this by reminding them that God is with them now in the difficulties AND that he will bring about a just solution in the end.

 

  1. 1.     General Greeting.

 

2 Thessalonians 1:1-2  1 Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)

 

We won’t spend time looking at this as it is almost identical to the first letter.

It does remind us – and we need to remember – that as Christians we belong to two worlds. Of the Thessalonians – we live in a particular place in a physical world BUT we also have spiritual life in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is possible only because the grace of God brought each believer into a relationship of peace with God through Jesus Christ.

  1. 2.     Genuine Spiritual life shouldn’t be static.

 

Paul is in these verses thanking God for the spiritual growth and maturity of these Thessalonian Christians. He sees in them qualities that are evidence that God is at work in and among his people.

 

Paul expresses this thanks to God for the three things that are happening in them:-

For growing faith

For increasing love

For enduring persecutions (hope)

 

Paul doesn’t use the word hope but it is reasonable I think to assume this is in mind.

He has commended the Thessalonians for these qualities of faith, love and hope in his first letter and here again he thanks God that they exhibit them. Notice that

In these verse these spiritual qualities are not static. These qualities are progressive / dynamic – their faith is growing more and more. Their love is increasing. And their staying power is growing as they continue to persevere in the midst of troubled times.

 

We must be careful not to see faith as a pre-packaged commodity that we receive all neatly wrapped in a little box. And then some get bigger packages than others and that is why some have more faith -–or are able to love more! Sometimes a person will say, “I have lost my faith!” like one would say, “I have lost my car keys” as if faith were a commodity.

 

Faith is a relationship of trust in God and like all relationships it is to be living and dynamic and growing. Sometimes that relationship of trust can be strong and sometimes weak. Jesus in his dealing with various people seemed to imply degrees of faith.

Jesus said of the Roman Centurion – Matthew 8:10  When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. (NIV)

 

In the same chapter speaking to his disciples during the storm on Lake Galilee –

Matthew 8:26 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

 

We talk similarly about love. We passively assume that we either love someone or we don’t – and then we shrug our shoulders dismissively as if there is nothing we can do about it. BUT we can take steps to nurture faith, love and hope.

These qualities are gifts from God but they are given in the context of a relationship – As our relationship with God deepens so our faith, love and hope will grow. It is God at work in his people and them responding and co-operating with the work of his Holy Spirit.

 

3. It will be all right on the Day.

 

The Thessalonian Christians were suffering because of their faith in Christ. We have to confess that we know nothing of this kind of persecution – there are millions though who do.

 

None of us would choose to suffer – We feel sorry for those who are persecuted and rightly so.

However I sometimes wonder – you may think this crazy – if we are actually the ones who are worse off – we are missing out on what God is teaching those who live in situations more difficult than ours.

WHY? Because Jesus taught that suffering was the unavoidable path to glory – for himself and his followers.

We are quite happy to accept this way of thinking in some areas of life – e.g. sport –  the oft quotes cliché, “No gain without pain!”

Jesus warned that – “in this world you will have trouble” // “take up your cross daily and follow him”

Paul warns – Acts 14:22 22 ……… “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” …. (NIV)

 

Suffering and glory belong together – Romans 8:17 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (NIV)

 

So Paul encourages the Thessalonians that their suffering is in fact God preparing them for glory. In the meantime his grace is sustaining them and sanctifying them.

 

Q> What about those who cause this suffering? What about those who wilfully ignore God?

The question must have arisen in the minds of the Thessalonians – as surely as it does in ours “What about those who persecute God’s people // What about those who ignore God // What about those who ridicule his Church // What about…?

 

What is the answer to all these questions? – GOD IS JUST!

We sometimes find it difficult to accept and grasp this in a world where we see so much suffering and injustice – And on the other hand we see those who cause these sufferings prospering and at ease. It seems sometimes that the world is up-side-down. We are tempted to shout out, “Why doesn’t God do something?”

BUT he is doing something – he is allowing his people to suffer in order to bring them to glory // to his heavenly kingdom.

AND while the wicked might seem to prosper and triumph temporarily we need to see that 2 Thessalonians 1:6 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you (NIV)

 

For the next 4 verses we are given a clear picture of how God will execute his judgement.

 

3.1. The “When” – “Who” – “What” of God’s punishment.

 

When will God put right the injustices of this world?

2 Thessalonians 1:7 7 …… This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. (NIV)

Seen this in the first letter….

1 Thessalonians 4:16 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (NIV)

 

Jesus will come himself – the same Jesus who died, rose from the dead, ascended to heaven – he will come in glory. He will be revealed – the purpose of unveiling to so something can be seen / in this case someone.

When Jesus came the first time as a baby to Bethlehem it was in weakness and obscurity – Not so when he returns – with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God and we read here in blazing fire. A symbol of God’s holiness – a consuming holiness that cannot tolerant anything unholy.

When he come he will deal with all unholiness / injustice / wickedness / ….. because he will come as judge of all the earth.

 

Who will he punish?

2 Thessalonians 1:8 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (NIV)

 

Paul identifies those who will be on the receiving end of God’s punishment – those who are uppermost in his mind are those who have been giving the church in Thessalonica a hard time.

However, the scope of God’s punishment is directed against all those who wilfully reject the knowledge of God and the gospel [good news] about Jesus.

The REB [Revised English Bible] best grasps the original meaning – “… those who refuse to acknowledge God and will not obey the gospel…”

 

What will be their punishment?

2 Thessalonians 1:9 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power

 

Talking about hell and God’s punishment is not a popular subject – Especially in a society that values, or maybe even worships, personal freedom and choice // and where tolerance is the highest virtue. How can Christians be so crass as to suggest that a God of love {If indeed there is a God} – that he would be so cruel?

I have had people say to me – “How could God punish in hell some like So-and-so as he is such a nice and kind person – he would never hurt any one – he will go out of his way to help people – in fact he is a much nicer person than many Christians I know!” ALL of those things may be perfectly true – and God certainly does want us to be kind, helpful and nice people!! BUT those who refuse to acknowledge God and will not come to God through Jesus Christ, no matter how nice they may be will be reject by God on the Day of Judgement.

 

God has gone out of his way and done everything that he can possibly do – supremely in sending his Son Jesus Christ – God doesn’t want any one to be punished. Jesus took the punishment in our place. God longs that we come to him. 2 Peter 3:9 9 The Lord …. is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (NIV)

God is constantly reaching out to humanity – calling us to come to him – BUT he will not force us – he wants us to respond to his invitation. To willingly come to him instead of wilfully rejecting him.

 

Those who come will share in God’s glory.

Those who refuse to come will incur God’s punishment.

 

Choices and consequences are part of life!

We are faced with a mind-numbing array of choices every time we go to the supermarket – or buy a new car – or go to a restaurant.

Choice is one of the characteristics of modern life –

 

However a second characteristic of modern life is the tendency to avoid responsibility for our choices – we have become very good and passing the buck, and blaming others – blaming the govt. – blaming the system – blaming our genetic make up — anything except a willingness to take responsibility for the consequences of our actions.

We believe we have a fundamental right to choose. And we are free to choose but what we are not free to do is choose the consequences of our choices.

 

Some choices are trivial and so are the consequences – Whether I drive a Peugeot or a Ford // whether I shop at Waitrose or Sainsbury’s is of little consequence.

Some choices are not trivial – some have profound consequences for life.

In certain things we MUST choose!

 

One of Robert Frost’s famous poems captures this:

Two roads diverge in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

and be one traveller, long I stood ….

Then took the other ….

Oh! I kept the first for another day!

Yet know how ways lead on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back….

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

Paul’s description of God’s future judgement is based upon the consequences of an unavoidable choice – the decision whether to accept or reject the gospel of Lord Jesus Christ.

 

When the time comes and all people appear before God – as is inevitable – those who acknowledged God and obeyed the gospel will be with the Lord forever in glory.

– those who refuse to acknowledge God and will not obey the gospel will find themselves “shut out” from the presence of God and his majesty.

 

This is only half the equation – we still need to consider the glory that awaits those who do know and obey God.

By sharing with the Thessalonians the vision of the future consequences of a choice made Paul is seeking to encourage them and us to remain faithful to God in spite of difficulties.

 

If we are God’s people the thought of that day should not fill us with dread – It will be all right on the day – because Jesus came in our place – took our punishment – incurred the wrath of God on the cross and so we will be able to stand before God on that day confident of his acceptance and reward.

 

The fact that there are still many who refuse God’s offer should spur us on to prayer and witness – that they too will experience God’s grace and mercy.

 

 

 

GOD IS JUST

 

2 Thessalonians 1v1-12

 

General Greeting  v1-2

 

Genuine Spiritual life shouldn’t be static v3-4

  • growing faith
  • enduring persecutions (hope)

  increasing love

 

“It will be all right on the Day” v5-10

 

The “When” – “Who” – “What” of God’s punishment

 

  • When will God put right the injustices of this world?
  • Who will he punish?
  • What will be their punishment?

 

The “When” – “Who” – “What” of God’s rewards

 

Grace and Glory – Then and Now v11-12

 

 

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