In this passage Paul thanks God for the salvation of the Thessalonians and encourages them to hold firmly to the teachings he has passed on to them.
v13. In the face of the present "revealing" of the antichrist and the "delusion" that he promotes, v1-12, Paul is still able to give thanks to Jesus for the Thessalonians. They are certainly not deluded because they are members of God's called-out people, a people saved by the sovereign grace of God, a people who are the firstfruits of God's long-promised salvation, and this through their "Christ-focused (spiritual) dedication and gospel based faith."
v14. The divine invitation conveyed to the Thessalonians by Paul and his ministry team, has as its purpose the gift of Christ's glory - the transformation of the people of God into the form of Christ's divine existence.
v15. So then, although the antichrist is presently troubling the Thessalonians, they need not be shaken. All they need to do, in the face of trouble, is apply themselves to the Word of God.
v16-17. Paul now prays that the Lord will "encourage" (comfort, cf. 1Thess.3:2) and "strengthen" (establish) the Thessalonians in the totality of their Christian lives. His prayer is directed to the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father, it is directed to the One who, by his favor, constantly surprises us with his love, and inspires us with courage and confidence.
In marriage counselling, it is often said that marital problems develop where there are unrealistic expectations. If young people have false expectations about their relationships then they will inevitably be frustrated, hurt, angry, disappointed, and sad. Their false expectations will destroy their marriage. As professional counselors remind us, feelings are prompted by preconceived ideas which and are followed up by emotionally driven action supported by face-saving rationalizations. So, getting the expectations right can save a whole lot of pain.
In the Christian life, false information, as to the intentions of God, or the assumed perfection of Christian living, can lead to depression and even a questioning of our faith. If we believe God is our healer, then we are in trouble when sickness strikes. If we believe our brothers and sisters are perfectly principled in their service to Christ, then we are bound for a big let-down when the "old Adam" raises his head. God will do what he promised, and our brothers will do what they are able.
The antichrist, under the direction of Satan, is always causing trouble, corrupting ideas, driving individuals, institutions or organizations to compromise their principles. This world is not heaven, yet by grace through faith we are God's family, his saved people. So then, how shall we stand firm in these troubled times? "Hold onto the teachings", says Paul; hold onto the Word of God. We need to get the information right and let it strengthen us.
Yet, there is more we can do. Paul prays that his readers be encouraged in their inner being. This is clearly a ministry of the indwelling Spirit of Christ. Against the wiles of this age, may we look in faith to the one who constantly surprises us with his love and inspires us with courage and confidence, enabling us to stand firm and not be overwhelmed by the vagaries of life. Our God will buttress us in our faith; this we can rightly ask in pray, believing.
1. In what sense are we God's "chosen" people?
2. Why can we confidently "stand firm" in the face of life's difficulties?
3. How may we "strengthen" our stand?