COMMENTARY ON SECOND THESSALONIANS
2 Thess 2:15 “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. 16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.” (2 Thess 2:15-17)
One of the marks of inspiration is the timeliness, appropriateness, and relevance of teaching. The lifeless traditions of men are disassociated from the hour, and have no sustaining power. They do not take the need of the saints into account, but seek only to maintain theological positions and organizational priorities. But this is not the case with Apostolic doctrine. While it deals with the past, it does so with a mind to secure the future. The words of Jesus, whether spoken directly by Him, or through His servants, are “spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). The objective of those words is twofold. First, to bring the mind of the Lord, as it pertains to humanity, within our reach. Second, to bring eternal advantages to us. This will become apparent in the text before us. We will see what God intends for us in Christ Jesus. The impact of those intentions upon those who receive them will also be seen. When these things are perceived, they provide incentive to hold on to the truth.
STANDING FAST AND HOLDING THE TRADITIONS
“ 15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” This admonition is based upon the reality of our involvement in the purpose of God. We have been chosen to salvation through the separating work of the Holy Spirit. We were called into this involvement through the Gospel. The purpose of the call is that we might “gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” NASB In view of our circumstance, therefore, this exhortation is only right and appropriate.
STAND FAST. Other versions read “stand firm.”This is another view of perseverance, or patience. Perseverance is like a jewel with many sides. From one view, it is continuing to run, even when we are weary. From another, it is continuing to fight, even when the foe seems unusually strong. From yet another, it is continuing to hope, even when the sky of circumstance tends to hide the glorious hope set before us. In this verse, perseverance is being “grounded and settled,” and not being “moved away from the hope of the Gospel” (Col 1:23). There are winds of adversity that threaten to move us, storms in which protection is sorely required, and the heat of trial that threatens to cause us to pull back. Standing fast is surviving all of those things without losing faith or having hope diminished. It is taking advantage of the safety afforded in Jesus, who is “an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land” (Isa 32:2). We are admonished to “stand fast in the faith” (1 Cor 16:13), “the liberty wherewith Christ math made us free” (Gal 5:1), “in one spirit” (Phil 1:27), “in the Lord” (Phil 4:1), and in this text “in the traditions.” Be firm, resolute, and “immoveable” (1 Cor 15:58). This is the opposite of being “tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14).
THE TRADITIONS. Other versions read “teachings,” NIV “instructions,” DARBY and “everything we taught you.” NLT This is not “the traditions of the elders” (Matt 15:2), or “the tradition of men” (Mark 8:7), which teachings are a departure from the truth, and change at the whims of men. Taken strictly, the word “traditions” refers to a way of doing things–a manner in which life is to be lived. It does not refer to the doctrinal points of the Gospel, like Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, etc. Rather, it refers to the conduct that is required by the belief of the truth: i.e., living by faith (Heb 10:39), walking in the Spirit (Gal 5:25, keeping ourselves unspotted from the world (James 1:17, and waiting for the Son of God from heaven(1 Thess 1:10). From a practical aspect, it is loving one another (1 Pet 1:22), not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together (Heb 10:25), remembering Christ around His table (1 Cor 11:23-36), and other related matters.
These are things that do not change. They are the consistent manner in which faith effects the heart. The “Apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42) consisted of the proclamation of the Person and accomplishments of Christ, the revealed purpose of God, and the reasonable manner in which men are to respond to those things. He word “traditions” refers specifically to the appropriate manner in which we are to respond to the Gospel. It includes our initial response to the Gospel, but extends to the entirety of our lives. That “taught” manner of life is to be held fast by the people of God, and not forfeited in favor of novel doctrines of men.
YE HAVE BEEN TAUGHT. Teaching involves more than the relation of facts. It focuses on expounding the truth, showing its implications. Jesus was a prolific Teacher, opening the Scriptures and bringing them to bear upon life (Mk 2:13; 4:2; 9:31; 10:1; 11:17; 12:35-39). In so doing, He moved the truth from being a mere theory to an actuating life principle. This teaching is what enables understanding to come, and thus liberty is experienced. Much professed teaching of our day is nothing more than the exposition of principles of psychiatry, science, philosophy, and other human perceptions. Here, teaching is what turns the blossom of truth into precious fruit that can be eaten, nourishing the soul. This is teaching that comes from both God (John 6:45; 1 Thess 4:9), Christ (Eph 4:21), the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:27), and men who have been blessed by God with understanding (Gal 6:6; Tit 1:91 Tim 5:17). There is a perfect harmony and interdependence in such teaching.
BY WORD. This is teaching by “word of mouth,” or one person to another in a face-to-face situation. Here men are instructed and edified by the human voice (1 Cor 14:19). It is the manner of the Kingdom for men to submit themselves to such teaching, not isolating themselves from the rest of the body of Christ
BY EPISTLE. This is teaching by letter, or writing. It is in perfect accord with what was taught by mouth. More specifically, it is “Scripture,” which was given by the inspiration of God (2 Tim 3:15-17). Thus men are spiritually advantaged through hearing and reading. A single spiritual thrust was found in what was spoken and what was written.
DIVINE CHOOSING IMPLEMENTED THROUGH MEANS
“ 16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace.” Here is an Apostolic prayer. In a sense, it is prayed in the presence of the believers, that they might be profited and instructed by it. This desire is in perfect harmony with the nature of the New Covenant, and the intention of God’s great salvation. It instructs us in how to think about our association with God through Christ, and what to expect from that association.
THE LORD JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF. There is an intensely personal aspect to salvation. While the Lord Jesus does employ means to accomplish His purposes in us, He is also personally involved with us: “our Lord Jesus Christ HIMSELF.” In this association, He is loving us, and manifests, or makes Himself known, to us (John 14:21). There is a sense in which the blessings of God are given personally to us by the Lord Jesus (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; Eph 6:23; Tit 1:4; 2 John 3). By saying “Now,” the Apostle means “now that you have been chosen by God, sanctified by the Spirit, and accepted in the Son, here is what Jesus will do.”
GOD, EVEN OUR FATHER. God is mentioned second because Jesus is the means of God becoming our Father. We approach to Him through Jesus, and the Father blesses us because of His Son. He is our Father because He has “begotten” us (1 Pet 1:3), and we are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:10).
HATH LOVED US. One might wonder why Divine love is used in the past tense. Why not say, “ . . . our Father, who loves us”? There is a good reason for saying it this way. Here is an appeal to our faith – an appeal that will, if we can see it, stabilize us in that faith. This places the love of God in the context of His purpose, rather than our need, or persons. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). “God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins” (Eph 2:4-5). “He loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Jesus is also said to have “loved” (past tense) us (Gal 2:20; Eph 5:2). The most profound manifestation of that love is seen in Christ laying down His life for us (1 John 3:16). That solitary effectual sacrifice exhibits both the love of the Father and the Son.
The reasoning to be seen here is this: If God loved us when we were dead in sins, providing for our reconciliation to Him and recovery from the fall, what will He do for us now? As it is written, “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us . Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him . . . For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom 5:8,10).
EVERLASTING CONSOLATION. Other versions read “eternal comfort,” NASB “eternal encouragement,” NIV “everlasting encouragement,” NAB and “ceaseless encouragement.” This is the opposite of temporary comfort or solace, which is a speciality of this world. This consolation does not fade, nor is it forfeited at death. It transports to the world to come. The implication is that the Father and the Son have pledged Themselves to console and soothe us in all of our troubles and trials. “Consolation” has to do with refreshment and revitalization. It is related to recovery and renewal. It speaks of help, assistance, and support. Because it is “everlasting,” there is no trial or difficulty that can, of itself, move us beyond the point of being refreshed, renewed, and caused be stand. “Consolation” also produces rejoicing (Acts 15:31). Jesus Himself is called “the CONSOLATION of Israel” (Lk 2:25), and God is the God “of CONSOLATION” (Rom 15:5). That is why “consolation” can “abound” (2 Cor 1:5).
GOOD HOPE. There is a hope that is futile, or perishes (Prov 11:7). Such a hope is only an imagination, having no substance for the soul. It is ever true, “the expectation of the wicked shall perish” (Prov 10:28). But it is not so with the righteous. Their hope is “good,” and it has been “given” to them. The wicked forge their own hope, the godly receive theirs. A “good hope” brings the expectation of “good things to come” (Heb 9:11). It enables the believer to look beyond the grave and time, and see only “good things.” Thus we “rejoice in hope” (Rom 5:2), that is, in the good things hope holds before our hearts and moves us to expect. Thus, those with “good hope” look confidently for the return of Jesus and eternity with Him.
THROUGH GRACE. God does not simply pour “everlasting consolation and good hope” upon us. They are delivered to our hearts by grace, which can only be realized “through faith” (Eph 2:8). Those with little awareness of the grace of God have little enjoyment of consolation, and are correspondingly weak in confident hope. However, wherever people “receive abundance of grace” (Rom 5:17), they will enjoy unfading consolation and encouragement, and a joyful and optimistic expectation of the future.
HEARTS AND EVERY GOOD WORD AND WORK
“ 17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.” Here is what the spiritual mind desires for members of “the household of faith” (Gal 6:10), or those who are believing. These are not things that are simply desired, but which come directly from God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. They represent more than a mere condition. Rather, they reflect a personal and productive relationship between the Saved and the Savior.
COMFORT YOUR HEARTS. “Comfort” is consolation or encouragement. It presumes the individual has been weakened by assaults from the enemy, and life in an “evil world” (Gal 1:4). This is “comfort,” or relief, that results from the personal assistance of the Lord. Thus the Holy Spirit Himself is said to “help our infirmities” (Rom 8:26). Jesus Himself is depicted as One who “gathers” the lambs with His arm, “carries” them in His bosom, and “gently leads those who are with young” (Isa 40:11). The “Father Himself” loves us, confirming it by giving us His “mercies” and “comfort” (2 Cor 1:3).
By saying the Father comforts our “hearts,” the Spirit means the refreshment and encouragement is deep within, and not on the surface of life. It is not like distracting laughter, or a momentary relief. By being in our hearts, it becomes discernible to us, producing joy and determination to finish the race. It causes believers to know God is for them, and not against them. It confirms that Satan is impotent in the heavenlies, and He that is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). The fact that so very little emphasis is being placed upon the hearts of saints, where they believe, is a most serious situation. It has become fashionable to put the emphasis on the mind and intellect rather than the heart. It must be remembered that Satan can “corrupt” our “minds” from the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus (2 Cor 11:3). The heart that is established with grace, however, can manage the mind to the glory of God and the refreshment of the believer (Heb 13:9). A comforted heart is one that rises above circumstance, continuing to believe, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. Instead of being troubled and distressed at the thought of Jesus returning, it is made stronger in joyful in the prospect of His coming.
ESTABLISH YOU. Other versions read “strengthen you,” NASB,NIV and “confirm you,” DOUAY The word “stablish,” or “establish,” means to make firm, steadfastly set, or cause to remain constant. To be established is to cease from vacillating, being “carried about” with various winds of doctrine (Eph 4:14). Souls that are firm and steadfast are not the products of human ingenuity. It is God Himself, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who establish the believer. They do not do so automatically. In our text, the prayer of a righteous man is being used. On the individual level, faith brings the benefit of establishment. Paul sent Timothy to the Thessalonians in order to do these very things – “comfort” and “establish” (1 Thess 3:2). He did this by strengthening their faith, for that is what moves the Lord to personally encourage and solidify His children. Paul longed to be with the Roman brethren, that He might so minister to them that they would be “established” (Rom 1:11). Peter also desired that we be “established in the present truth” (2 Pet 1:12). All of this confirms the liability of being a novice, and the danger of not growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:18).
EVERY GOOD WORD. Here is an area in which we do well to be established, or made firm and stable: “every good word.” If you have the grace to see it, what professed believers say is often very weak, and even contemptible. A “good word” is one that is “good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Eph 4:29). It is one that brings the things of God closer to our brethren, and puts the world further from them. Such words are called “godly edifying” (1 Tim 1:4), and are used of God to sustain and strengthen His children. To be established in this area is to consistently speak words that move people toward their inheritance, clarifying the things of God, and putting the truth within the grasp of the heart. As I have indicated, this is a particularly weak area in the professed church. That condition requires frequent prayers and exhortations. Our speech must be freed from the contaminants of worldly wisdom (1 Cor 2:4). It is to be “alway with grace,” and “seasoned with salt” (Col 4:6) – “sound speech that cannot be condemned” (Tit 2:8). That is somewhat of the involvements of being established “in every good word.”
EVERY GOOD WORK. Our works are also to be established. That means we can “abound in every good work” (2 Cor 9:8), for only established works can flourish to the glory of God. Established works are consistent ones that do not waver between righteous and unrighteous. They are works that produce fruit (Col 1:10), and in which the will of the Lord is fervently and consistently sought (Heb 13:21). Believers are not to be erratic in their works. God alone can insure that this consistency takes place in us. He can “work” in us “both to will and to DO of His own good pleasure” (Phil 2:13). Let us seek this for one another.