God is Just and Loving
2 Thessalonians 1:5-10
1. Recognize the Context:
The thanksgiving portion of this letter is found in verses 3-12.
In verse 3, Paul used the words ought and rightly so, to characterize his thanksgiving. For Paul, these qualifiers were not empty expressions of mere obligation. Rather, they identified the natural response of gratitude Paul had because the Thessalonian church continued to grow in faith and love for one another.
For Paul, this brought a heart of gratitude because it was an answer to his prayer for the Thessalonians.
Remember 1 Thessalonians 3:10-12.
“Night and day, we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”
Their faith and love continued to increase even under significant hardships. Therefore, their faithful endurance amid adversity compelled Paul to "brag" about them to other believing communities.
2. Read the Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10
5 All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
3. Reflect on the Scripture::
Paul believed the Thessalonian church was maturing and persevering in the face of suffering and persecution (verses 3-4), and all this provided evidence confirming God’s judgment about them. This evaluation confirmed they were counted worthy of the kingdom of God. In 1 Thessalonians 2:12, Paul urged them to live a life “worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” Here he confirmed this was precisely how they were living.
In verses 6-7, God is described as just. He will punish those who trouble his people and will bring relief to those troubled. This vindication of God’s people will occur at the return of Christ in power. In verse 8, those who will be punished are described as those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They are people who have rejected the gospel. The result of this rejection will be separated from the Lord’s presence. Those who, like the Thessalonians, have received the message of the gospel will experience the presence of Christ and will worship him.
Today, the concept of judgment is not a very popular one, even in many churches. In our pluralistic and inclusive western culture, all roads lead to God and Jesus is “too nice” not to accept everyone, regardless of how they live. This is not the message presented here by Paul or, in fact, by Jesus himself (Matt. 25:31-46). Therefore, the truth of Scripture needs to be presented. However, this message has to be presented in love, because the cross is God’s ultimate demonstration of both justice and love.
4. Relate to life:
Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message.
Today, pray for the persecuted church around the world. Pray God will give them the grace to persevere in the midst of their suffering. Pray he would provide relief for those who are being troubled today for the sake of the gospel.
Today, prayerfully reflect on the justice of God. Like his love, this is an essential attribute of his character.
Today, thank God that you, like the Thessalonian church, have responded to the gospel message and will be counted among those who will experience the Lord’s presence forever.
To do: (with the Holy Spirit's help)
Given the prayer suggestions, what can you incorporate into your life today? Think about your attitudes, actions, and words. Think about your family, friends, church community, co-workers.
Is there someone with which you need to share the message of the gospel? Ask the Holy Spirit to help open the door for this to happen.
I have mentioned this in a previous post, but if you want to know more about the persecuted church around the world, check out www.persecution.com. (Voice of the Martyrs organization)