|2 Thessalonians 2
Don’t Be Distressed
2 Thessalonians 2
1. This chapter is notorious for its discussion of the “Man of Sin”. Particularly in present times with Y2K on the horizon, this chapter has taken on a significance for some that is inconsistent with the point the chapter is making. In my teaching moment and in your discussion, let’s not miss the main point by spending too much time on identifying the “Man of Sin.” Focus on the last few verses of this chapter and Paul’s main interest in bringing up the “Man of Sin” in the first place.
2. Paul hears that some of the Thessalonians believe that the “day of the Lord” (v. 2) has already come or is going to come at any moment. And Paul is particularly concerned that they have arrived at this conclusion because of some forged letter or misspoken (false) prophecy. Apparently, some letters were circulating that purported to be from Paul (vv.1-2).
3. But the day of the Lord will not come till “the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed” (v.3). Most scholars admit ignorance as to who this is. Some think it was perhaps a Roman emperor, a persecutor; some think it was the local or regional authorities who were persecuting the Thessalonians; some think it is some future tyrant or “the Antichrist”. Bottom line is that we don’t know. I’m inclined to think some Roman authority, but beyond that it is impossible to say.
4. Paul’s point, however, is that the day of the Lord has not come. Everyone will know it when it does come, and until then Satan will oppose every effort to gather a people for God when he comes again. The “Man of Sin” is but one of his tactics. He epitomizes that sort of things Satan does to hinder God’s kingdom. Satan will work every kind of evil to destroy the faith of those who wait for the Lord’s coming. Satan is active, and even now the “secret power of lawlessness is already work” (v. 7).
5. But God is at work too. He permits Satan to do his work and God is active as well to give those who do not love the truth over to their own desires. When does not love the truth, God permits them to believe a lie. God condemns those who delight in wickedness and do not love the truth (vv. 10-12).
6. Yet, Paul is confident about the Thessalonians. He thanks God for them (v. 13). Why is Paul confident? Because of what God has done. What has God done? (a) God has loved them; (b) God has chosen them; and (c) God called them (vv. 13-14). God has taken the initiative and pursued the Thessalonians. Paul’s confident about the Thessalonians is in God.
7. The means by which God does these things for the Thessalonians is (a) sanctifying work of the Spirit; (b) belief in the truth; and (c) through the gospel. It is the message about Jesus Christ and the work of the Spirit that effectively works salvation for the Thessalonians (vv. 13-14). Through their faith in the Jesus and the work of Spirit, God saves a people for himself.
8. The goal God has is that they might share in the glory of Jesus Christ (v. 14). God wants a people to share the glory of the return of his Son. Satan is at work to counteract that goal, but God is working through the Thessalonian church to bring about that goal. Where will the Thessalonians end up?
9. Thus, Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to “stand firm” and “holding to the teachings we passed on to you” (v. 15). Will Satan hinder the Thessalonians or will they stand firm in their faith? Paul’s exhortation goes to the heart of the matter.
10. In addition, Paul offers another prayer for the Thessalonians (vv. 16-17). This prayer is offered in the context of Satanic opposition and his exhortation to “stand firm”. The prayer is rooted in the gracious work of Jesus and the Father. God gives us encouragement and hope by his grace! Because of who God is, Paul prays that God and Jesus will “encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” Given the Satanic opposition, the Thessalonians need the divine strength and encouragement.
1. Given chapter two, why did Paul write this letter? About what was he concerned?
2. What sort of things does Satan do to hinder God’s church? In particular, what will the “man of lawlessness” do and how will Satan use him? Does Satan use people like that today for the same purposes? What does that look like today? In what ways is Satan trying to destroy your congregation today?
3. How does God respond to the activities of Satan? Why does not God stop him? In what ways is God active, even among this evil? How does this make you feel about God? Can you see it from God’s point of view?
4. In contrast to verse 10, what do you think would be the result of choosing to “love the truth”? What makes the difference in whether a lie is believed or the truth?
5. How does verses 13-14 encourage you today? Notice how the verse has divine initiative, means and goal. How do each of those encourage you?
6. Where does human responsibility come into play here? What is our responsibility as we fend off Satan’s attempts to destroy God’s people.
7. What does this text tell us about God’s work to help his people? How does the prayer encourage us?
8. In what ways can your congregation draw strength from these statements about God and the prayer offered? What specifically can we pray about to protect your congregation from Satan’s attacks?
9. Ask the group to pray verses 16-17 and to put it in the context of your congregation.
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