CONFIDENCE

2 Thessalonians 2:13—3:5; 1 Peter 2:9, 10

When it comes to Christian living, there are two extremes best avoided. On one hand, there are people who think Christians should never have a worry in the world. To them, being a Christian should exempt you from the trials and tribulations of everyday life and there is no sin so grievous that can endanger your salvation. On the other hand, there are Christians who worry about everything, negative about everything, and are always wondering if they are still saved.

Both of these extremes in thought are unbiblical. The Bible never teaches us to live recklessly, assuming there is nothing we do that can cause us to lose our salvation. Nor does the Bible teach us to “get saved” every other day just in case we did something that would cause us to lose our salvation. What the Bible does teach is that a believer can have complete confidence in his relationship with Christ as he goes about his daily life, striving to live in obedience to His Word. While we cannot hide from the world or hibernate deep in the woods until Christ returns, we can—and in fact God expects us to—live life to the fullest ever day. We are to be a part of the community in which we live, working and rubbing shoulders with all kinds of people, believers or not. We may be confident that no matter where we may find ourselves on any given day, we have God’s promise that He is always with us and that He will deliver us from any trial or temptation facing us. Knowing this wonderful truth should give all Christians unbridled confidence in the fact that they can, through the power of Christ, live a victorious life.

1. Chosen and loved by God, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14; 1 Peter 2:9, 10

a. Called to salvation, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

These two verses say two powerful things about the Christian’s position in Christ, which form the basis for our confidence. First, the believer has been chosen by God, and second, he has been called by God.

When Paul writes that the Thessalonian believers had been “chosen by God to be saved,” he is speaking of the doctrine of election. In the Greek Old Testament, the same word is used to describe God’s choosing of Israel (Deuteronomy 26:18). Paul said that God chose the Thessalonians “from the beginning,” which probably does not refer to the beginning of Paul’s missionary work there, but to a time before the creation of the world.

This idea of God’s choosing believers before time is a common thought in Paul’s writing, for example in 1 Corinthians 2:7 and Ephesians 1:4. God, in eternity past, chose people for the purpose of saving them “through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and belief in the truth.” In this telling phrase, we see there are two things at work: divine and human responsibilities in salvation. God’s part in saving people involves the work of the Holy Spirit in setting apart (sanctifying) the believer. The human responsibility is to believe the truth.

The “choosing” was made in eternity past but the “calling” is present. God calls those He has chosen through the preaching or presentation of the Gospel. Part of this divine calling to salvation involves future glorification.

These two verses are chock-full of theology but this deep theology had a very practical purpose: to encourage the Thessalonians as they faced their trials and periods of persecution. Knowing that better days are coming, believers should be optimistic about their future regardless of their present circumstances. We should know that hard times will come and they will pass and in the end we will emerge victorious.

b. Chosen people, 1 Peter 2:9, 10

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

These two verses show a stunning contrast between the present state of believers (vs, 9) and their past (vs. 10). Verse 9 is not an “ideal” condition but a real one. Believers are literally a “chosen people,” people picked out of the whole world and placed in a new relationship with God by virtue of their new birth. As God’s chosen people, Christians share in His royal authority and are wonderfully free to approach God any time through Christ. Christians are a “holy nation,” or a separated group of people.

2. Hope by grace, 2 Thessalonians 2:15—17

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

a. Stand firm, vs. 15

Verse 15 is a kind of summary exhortation. The church is to “stand firm” in God’s truth; the truth they had received from Paul’s teaching. In the face of any and all forms of opposition, and in the face of any fancy false teachings, the Thessalonians were encouraged to “stand firm,” or remain unmovable in their devotion to the truths they had been taught.

We may be tempted to latch on to new and groovy sounding teachings that tingle our ears, but Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians is as true for us as it was for them. We ought to measure any new teaching against the plain truth of God’s word; the teachings we heard in the beginning.

b. Be encouraged, vss. 16, 17

The chapter closes with Paul praying that his friends have the strength to stand firm and hold fast to the traditional teachings of the Word of God. He prays for two things:

  • Encourage their hearts. The Thessalonians were in real trouble; they were facing real threats and distress. They needed God’s help and divine encouragement and comfort to carry on.
  • Strengthen them in good words and deeds. Paul wanted God to enable his friends to live right no matter what. Consistent Christian behavior is essential. We cannot be “fair weather Christians,” people who are in love with Jesus and living for Him when it’s all sunshine and roses! We are to live that way all the time, regardless of circumstances.

3. Established and kept by Christ, 2 Thessalonians 3:1—5

a. Specific praying, vss. 1, 2

Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith.

Paul prayed for the believers in Thessalonica, but he was also in need of prayer. We can learn what was most important to Paul as we look at his two prayer requests:

  1. He asked the Thessalonians to pray that the Gospel would be spread quickly and honored. What Paul wanted was unfettered opportunities to preach the Word. But not only did Paul want the freedom to evangelize, but he wanted the Gospel to be received and believed by those who heard it.
  2. Paul asked to be delivered from “wicked and evil men.”

We see here what was of primary importance to Paul: he wanted to be protected and kept safe, but that protection had a primary purpose: the advancement of the Gospel.

b. The Lord’s faithfulness, vss. 3—5

But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command.May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

Paul wanted his friends to remain faithful to Christ, but verses 3 and 4 speak of Christ’s faithfulness. While believers may face bad times at the hands of faithfuless people, God, who is faithful, will give His people strength and protection.

God will ultimately vindicate the Church when He punishes all evil doers. But His faithfulness is not just about future judgment, it is also seen in the very real present protection and care for His Church.

Because God is ever-faithful, believers can persevere in the faith and look over and beyond their present troubles. How are believers able to do this? It is because of God’s character, not because Christians are inherently able to do so. The faithfulness of God is the soul’s anchor. God can be depended on; we can have have absolute confidence in Him because of who He is. Confidence in the Lord leads to confidence in living the kind of life that is pleasing to Him.

 

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