2 Thessalonians Sermon 1 October 11, 2015
2 Thessalonians Overview “What Can Shake Thy Sure Repose?”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Why are we looking at Paul’s second letter to the church at Thessalonica, instead of starting with his first letter? The simple answer is that I have already preached on 1 Thessalonians: I gave 11 sermons on that letter in the summer of 1998, and I am sure you can remember every detail!
But to refresh your memory, let’s recap Paul’s relationship to these people:
In Acts 17:1-10 we read that Paul and Silas went to Thessalonica on their 2nd missionary journey, and for three Sabbaths, Paul explained from the Scriptures that Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead, and how the Jesus he proclaimed to them was indeed the long-awaited Messiah. Now some Jews believed the gospel message, but others became jealous, and they stirred up a mob and started a riot, and Paul and Silas were forced to escape to Berea.
Later, Paul, anxious to know how the church there was doing, sent Timothy to them (1 Thess. 3:2ff.), and Timothy brought back word that this group of believers, who had the gospel preached to them for only a short time, was doing well. In response to Timothy’s report, Paul wrote his first letter to them to encourage them and to further instruct them.
Not too long after this first letter (written around 51 AD), Paul pens a second letter, in response to the reports he is receiving concerning that congregation. He wrote to them:
1. to encourage them in light of the increasing persecution which they were facing (1:4-5);
2. to deal with the reports of a false letter, supposedly written by him, and other misrepresentations of his teaching regarding the day of the Lord (2:1f); and
3. to deal with the wrong way some were responding to belief in the imminent return of the Lord. This belief was still being used as a basis for giving up their jobs, and just hanging around for Christ’s return! (3:5-15).
Or if we considered these attacks as Satan’s “Triple Play”, we might say that the threats to the congregation included:
1. Physical Threats: Persecution (1:4-6) “Suffering”
2. Intellectual Threats: False Teaching (2:2ff.) “Shaken”
3. Moral Threats: Temptation (3:6ff.) “Slacking Off”
Now any or all of these three things could have shaken the Thessalonian believers: persecution from without; false teaching from within; and discouraging examples among them.
But Paul wrote to them to comfort them in their suffering, to coach them in their doctrine, and to correct them in their behavior. Or to expand a bit on each point, the apostle wrote:
1. to encouragement them to persevere, by describing the reward and retribution that will occur in the future judgment of God (1:3-10);
2. to clarify for them the prominent events belonging to the day of the Lord in order to prove the error of the claims that the day had already arrived (2:1-12); and
3. to give them detailed instructions covering the disciplinary steps the church should take to correct those who refused to work (3:6-15).
So to give us a handle on this letter of 2 Thessalonians, I’m borrowing a line from that great hymn about the church, and calling this short series of sermons, “What Can Shake Thy Sure Repose?”
It’s taken from that great hymn by John Newton about the Church of Christ, “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken:”
Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God;
whose word cannot be broken formed thee for His own abode;
On the Rock of Ages founded, what can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded, thou mayest smile at all thy foes.
If a congregation is founded on the Rock of Ages; if God’s promises regarding the church cannot be broken; and if we are surrounded by the fortress walls of Christ’s salvation, then what CAN shake our sure repose?
“Repose” – not a word we use much. But one of the meanings of it is “A state of resting after exertion or strain.” It can also refer to “eternal or heavenly rest.” So the idea is that as a church we may be hammered by persecution and suffering; we may have to wrestle against false doctrine and cunning pseudo-shepherds; and we may face discouragement from others in the congregation who are lazy and slacking off. But God speaks to us in 2 Thessalonians and says “Take courage! Press on with God’s Kingdom! Don’t lose hope in how Christ will build His church! For after you have striven and been strained, nothing can shake your sure repose! There awaits for you the crown of Christ’s righteousness, and eternal and glorious rest in Him!
So allow me to lead you in looking at these three challenges to the congregation at Thessalonica though two perspectives, and as we do so, we can see how they apply to us today:
The Characteristics of a Solid (non-shaken) Congregation/ Christian:
Each of these three challenges to the local church can be viewed by what they imply about a solid, Christ-centered church;
1. We need a robust faith in Christ that can withstand unjust suffering
2. We need a solid system of Biblical doctrine that can discern and rebut any clever twisting of scripture.
3. We need a Christ-centered lifestyle that flows from our understanding of God’s Word.
Check yourself on all three points: Your faith, your doctrine, and your behavior and attitude.
Nothing can shake your sure repose if you are growing in those areas.
Note the Means of Grace that Paul uses to help the church:
In each challenge to the church, Paul uses three important tools to deal with the problem:
1. He gives them solid Biblical teaching (Truth)
2. He points them to God’s grace for us, in Christ (Love)
3. He uses appropriate exhortations and encouragements. (Application: Speaking the Truth in Love)
Application: Are you personally availing yourself of these means of grace? What would you say if another Christian asked you “How you are feeding yourself from God’s Word each day?” or “How are you allowing other believers to exhort you and to encourage you? Where are you doing that with others?” Men, especially- are you engaged in these kinds of accountability relationships? I urge you to do so.
The Application to our Church:
What are the similar challenges to our church, and to the churches of America, today? Imagine if this letter was addressed to the church at Maple Glen?
1. Persecution from outside: those who are intent on bringing down the church, such as radical LGBT groups, and from those in power (government) who want total control over all aspects of society, and therefore what to marginalize the church. This pressure will become increasingly stronger, and we must be prepared for it.
2. False teachers from within the larger church: There are those who urge us to give in to the cultural norms; those who would deny the infallibility and inerrancy of God’s Word; those who want to soften the clear teachings of Scripture regarding hell, election, God’s sovereignty, etc. They wish to soft pedal what the Bible says about sexual issues, marriage, gender, etc. How about a recent video from the internet news and humor site Buzzfeed that went viral. In it, a half a dozen young actors take up the mantra, “I’m a Christian, but I’m not…”“…I’m not homophobic,” says one. “…“…I’m not judgmental,” and “…I don’t place myself on a pedestal,” boast others. But none of the six actors ever identifies with Christ! Then there’s some “evangelical” megachurch pastors; e.g. Joel Osteen, who mainly seem to want their people to feel good. Watch out for those teachers whose message is “I want to make you happy.” Remember that God’s message is “I want to make you holy, as I am holy, and you will find true joy that way.”
Slackers and Shirkers within our own church? How about those who sit back and let others do for them, instead of contributing and helping. (If you are able to.) Perhaps even those who do nothing about the evil and injustice around us. Do some of you misuse the doctrine of salvation by grace alone and twist it so that you think you are exempt from responsibilities?
In all this, we cannot neglect the corporate dimension of our spiritual growth. While each of us tend to read the Bible and listen to sermons for what I can get out of them, this epistle reminds us that we are all in this together, for better or worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health…! We have covenant responsibilities to one another, as we are one, as part of Christ’s body. Therefore the spiritual growth of a congregation requires constant diligence, love, and commitment to people.
Helping believers grow is a continual process that requires a great deal of patience and realistic expectations. There will always be struggles and growing pains. Because of the influences of the world in which we live and with Satan always on the prowl, we should never be surprised by struggles and the ever-present reality of growing pains people face (including ourselves!). In this world, we will always have the pressure and frustration that often goes along with godly concern for believers and their growth in Christ. The reality of this can protect us from false expectations. Certainly, we can expect God to work and for His Word to work powerfully in our lives, but this never occurs without struggle and the need to resist the work of Satan.
And so as we study 2 Thessalonians, may we sing, “On the Rock of Ages founded, what can shake thy sure repose? With salvation’s walls surrounded, thou mayest smile at all thy foes.”