2 Thessalonians and 1st Corinthians
Lecture 6: 2 Thessalonians and 1st Corinthians
This is the 6th lecture in the online series of lectures on New Testament Survey by Dr Thomas Schreiner. Recommended Reading includes: Article on Divorce and Remarriage – Craig Blomberg, Trinity Journal, 1990; The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross by Leon Morris; Are there Two Will in God by John Piper; Two views on Women in Ministry by James Beck and Craig Blomberg; Word Bible Commentary: Pastoral Epistles, Volume 46, by William D. Mounce and Recovering Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood, by Wayne Gudem and John Piper (article by Vern Poythress entitled, ‘The Church as a Family’)
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Flow of 1st Corinthians 1:26-31
Consider your calling, that there were not many wise, not many noble. We would fill out each of these as a proposition. There are not many wise that were called. There are not many might that are called. There are not many noble called. There aren’t any key words that are used here, except for ‘but’. ‘But God has chosen the foolish in the world to shame the wise.’ The same construction is in the next sentence, God has chosen the low and despised in the world…..so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.’ Note the ‘that’ in verse 28 is not the same as the ‘that’ in 26b. These key words are the glue that holds these verses together. Verse 30 is a major verse, ‘who became wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.’ I separate this verse, especially the ‘righteousness and sanctification and redemption’. This is my interpretation in the way I split verse 30 up. We have another ‘that’ in ‘so that, as it is written.’ The main proposition is right here and from Jeramiah 9, ‘let him who boast, boast in the Lord.’ The main verb is the word ‘boast’ in the Lord.
I. Instructions on the Day of the Lord – 2nd Thessalonians 2:1-12
A. Call to Clear Thinking
These people think that the Day of the Lord has come or is imminent. But Paul explains to them, ‘let no one deceive you in any way. For that day the end will not come…’ How do we know when the end will come? There are two things that we are told here; it will not come unless there is a rebellion or apostasy. The Greek word is ‘apostasia’, a departure. Some people thought that this meant the rapture. This word is always used as spiritual rebellion or departure from the faith. In speaking of apostasy, we say that person has committed apostasy; he or she is not a believer, although they appear to be at the beginning, if you don’t think people can lose their salvation. In verse 3, that day will not come unless the rebellion or apostasy comes first. There is this great departure from the faith, and this is talking about what will happy among Christians. So this is going to be difficult to discern. We have had a lot of rebellion or apostasies throughout history, a lot of departures from the faith. Which one is going to be the one? In regards to Biblical prophecy, God always keeps us guessing. Maybe this is the apostasy; a lot of serious things are happening in evangelicals today. What has happened at Southern Seminary is really a recovery of the Gospel in our generation today. There is always a danger that the next generation will lose it. In other areas of evangelicals, there are defections going on now. But Paul says that hasn’t happened yet, as the Christian movement was very young at that point.
B. The Lawless One’s Appearance
The second thing we look for is the man of lawlessness on the scene, the son of lawlessness or the son of perdition. This is the same person that in other passages is called ‘the anti-Christ.’ In the Book of Revelation, he is called the beast. Paul doesn’t use that terminology but instead he uses the son of destruction. Paul says in verse 4 that he opposes and exalts himself against every God and the worship of God, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. So this person will claim to be himself, God. So does this text demand that there is a future rebuilding of the temple. Many people read it that way. I think it is possible that this is symbolic, a way of saying he is god and need not necessarily be literally fulfilled. This depends on your eschatology if you think that the temple must be rebuilt for the end to come. Of course there are big debates on this today. I think this text could be fulfilled just by a person arising and making such claims. This word ‘temple’ could even refer to the church. But Paul says this hasn’t happened and the end can’t come until these two things have happened. In 1st John, he reminds us that there are anti-Christs. So there is the Man of Lawlessness and there are men of lawlessness. So we always need to be alert. There are always candidates out there who will fulfill this. The church has always been alert to the great defection because there has always been the possibility of it happening with the man of lawlessness to return. There are always anti-Christs and defections going on. But there is the defection and the man of lawlessness coming. Paul says these things haven’t happened yet and so it isn’t the end. And it isn’t clear today that the anti-Christ has come. We have no reason to think that the end has come now, although everything could come together very quickly.
I just want to say a little bit about the rapture. This is the argument from Silas. The Thessalonians are confused in thinking that the end has somehow arrived. They think that everything is coming to a close. If Paul believed in a pre-tribulation rapture that would be the clearest thing he could say, the end hasn’t arrived. All he would have to confirm to them that they were still here and that they weren’t gone. It is obvious that it isn’t the end. There has to be that seven year interval, remember. It is impossible; it can’t be the day of the Lord. But he doesn’t say this. I think the reason that he doesn’t say this is because there is such a thing. He thinks that the second coming and the rapture is at the same time. Don’t you remember that I told you about these things in verse 5? You know what is restraining him now. You know the thing that is restraining this man of lawlessness. There is something restraining evil and he will be revealed in his own time. God is sovereign over the Man of Lawlessness, the coming of the anti-Christ, the coming of the beast. That hour is appointed by God. God is in control of it all. The mystery of lawlessness is already at work. The mystery indicates the full import of wickedness and evil hasn’t been revealed to us.
Of course in unbelievers there is a restraint going on of evil and that restraint at the end is going to be lifted and the full manifestation of wickedness will appear. In verse 6 it is the thing that is restraining but in verse 7 it is the person who is restraining. What is this restrainer? The answer to this has been a great controversy among commentators and theologians. Who and what is this restrainer? The Thessalonians know what is restraining the evil for Paul says this. Paul had already told them before and that is why he doesn’t remind them. He assumes they remember what he says orally. This text was written to the Thessalonians in 50 AD where Paul had talked to them, met with them and shared life and memories together. Commentators read it and say, ‘no, we don’t know.’ So we don’t know who the restrainer is, fundamentally. That is why there is such a big debate. We learn a lot of things studying the Bible. It answers a lot of our questions, but we have questions that aren’t answered. And there are lots of opinions about things, like the Holy Spirit where others think that he is the restraining power. Romans 13, the government may become a force for evil. Others think that the missionary movement will be stopped. Warfield thinks that it is Satan himself. But we do know that God is doing the restraining in some fashion. Ultimately, God knows when this evil will erupt.
In verse 8, ‘and then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.’ He is not saying instantaneously, but he will be dealt with. He will be destroyed by the breath of Jesus’ mouth. We think of Revelation 19 where the beast and false prophet is thrown into the Lake of Fire forever in that battle. So in the second coming of Jesus, evil will be removed forever. But then Paul returns to this lawless being once again. The coming of the lawless one will be by the activity of Satan with false signs and wonders. I think these signs and wonders will really occur (Matthew 24). There really will be miracles and signs and wonders that will be done by the power of evil. I think of Deuteronomy 13. I think God allows these things to take place by the agents of evil to test our hearts to see if we really love him. And that is what is going to happen in the end. And we pray that we stay close to the Lord because it will come with deception and unbelievers will believe it. They are going to have evidence at the end. Miracles, signs and wonders are going to be done. It is because they refuse to love the truth and be saved. The ultimately reason, they will refuse to believe is that something is going on in their hearts. Therefore, because they don’t love the truth and reject it, God sends on them a strong delusion to make them believe what is false. I don’t believe this is from eternity that he has hardened these people. The delusion comes from their false belief that was already there. So there are reasons in their own minds why they believe the way they do and they take pleasure in their unrighteousness. Paul doesn’t want us to pick those who will never turn out. And I think we should never stop praying for someone in that category.
II. Thanks and Prayer to God
As believers we ought to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the Truth. You are a lot nobler as you believed Christ compared to those who have chosen not to follow Christ. God chose us for salvation; we believe because of God’s powerful saving grace. It removes any basis for boasting or saying that we were wiser than the others. Some people compare salvation to a life raft where some people grab it while others don’t. Biblically, we were dead in our sins and Jesus gives us new life. Salvation is the setting apart through the work of the Spirit, believing in the Gospel and we believe because of God’s grace in our life. Our call to Jesus is something effective, it is the calling of Jesus as he called Lazarus out of the tomb. This calling creates life and faith and this is how it is understood here. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation so the Gospel, the Word of God has power to save. So it is through God’s grace that you are saved. Paul refers to this salvation, grace and love of God as traditions that we should hang on to.
III. Request for Prayer and Warning Regarding Being Disorderly
In 3:1-15, Paul asked them to pray for him and what he is doing. You can pray every day for missionaries, that the word of the Lord would run and there would be pathways for the Gospel. It can be the civil authorities that hinder the Gospel from being preached. They stop it through persecution or other methods. Pray that the Gospel would also be glorified and that it would be seen as beautiful. So pray that there would be ways of sharing the Gospel and that it would be looked upon as something good. Paul says pray that they would be delivered from evil and wicked men.
Paul now speaks to those who are lazy in 3:6-13; to those who are not working. We don’t know for sure but they may think the second coming is going to happen soon. Even if we think the Lord is coming today, we should go about our business for the glory of God. Everything that we do should be done for the glory and obedience to God. Peter says to pray and love each other. Jesus is coming but you need to still work, Paul says. We worked while we were among you, we were not idle. This was to be an example to you. Paul says, for those who are not willing to work, but who can work, don’t feed them. That balances out to what Jesus says in Matthew 5. It is not good for that person to feed him. It is actually loving to exercise this kind of discipline. He goes to say that church discipline should be exercised as it says in Matthew 18. We have no concept of what true love and discipline is in this day and time. So we see that discipline is love and Paul says this because he loves these people. Of course there has been lots of church abuse throughout history in one way or another. Paul says not to have anything to do with a person who doesn’t work or any person who is living in sin. Our relationship should be different to those living in sin compared to our relationship with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. But Paul says that we shouldn’t look at them as an enemy but instead to warn him as a brother. We need to love those who don’t understand the things of God even within our churches. Many people just don’t know the Bible and don’t really understand what love is. They haven’t studied the Word of God but instead depend upon their own wisdom just like those in the world do today.
I. Introduction – 1:1-9
This letter is from Paul of course and Paul also includes a brother by the name of Sosthenes. Paul says that the church is sanctified in Christ Jesus, yet at the same time they have a lot of problems. He reminds them in verse 2 that there are other brothers and sisters out there. I think Paul tells them this for a reason. They are not the only Christians out there. Paul gives thanks to God always because of the grace of God that was given to them in Christ Jesus. I thank God because he has bestowed his grace in your lives and you have been enriched in him in all knowledge. Paul says that they are not lacking in any spiritual gift either. He sees the good going on in the church, apart from the bad. Many churches have problems with spiritual gifts but Paul says that they are not lacking in spiritual gifts. This is God’s work in them. They seem to think heaven on earth has come or want it to be now. Everybody wants heaven on earth but this isn’t reality. People leave church, they divorce and do all sorts of things physically to obtain their heaven on earth. The perfect place is not there. The Corinthians wanted to be perfect but Paul reminds them that perfection is not until the end. Paul says that God will sustain you until the end. Verse 9, ‘God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.’ Almost always, when God says he is faithful in the Bible, it is linked to our perseverance. God is faithful and those whom he has called he will be faithful to them and they will make it because of his grace. But so many people decide to believe specific verses while other verses they disregard. But we can’t choose and pick what to believe and what not to believe when these things are so linked and his Word is so true.