Pastor Randy’s Top 66 – 2 Thessalonians
“He (the Lord God) called you to this (salvation) through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by Letter.” 2 Thessalonians 2:14-15
Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians (his First Letter is mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:15) was written shortly after the First Letter (around 51AD) and probably from Corinth, as the First Letter was. Paul’s main point in writing was to still clarify doctrinal issues that he started to teach them while he was there, and then followed up in his First Letter to them, and his main theme regards the Return of the Lord for His people, and to especially refute the false idea that the ‘Day of the Lord’ had already occurred.
The verses I chose to write about aren’t necessarily about the Return of the Lord. I chose these particular verses because I believe they mention something that is far more important. Well, of course, the Return of the Lord is important, but these two verses are speaking about something far more fundamental, and as far as I’m concerned, fundamentals of the Gospel outweigh something that will definitely happen for all Christians – we WILL be caught up in the air to be with Him forever. If you don’t get this fundamental doctrine correct, you WON’T be caught up with Him in the air!!
Let’s look closely at these two verses from the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians. Paul started this particular paragraph at verse thirteen and it’s basically a summation of the Gospel – starting with God’s decreed choice of His children before the foundation of the world; our calling to salvation through the work of the Spirit wrought by the sacrifice of Christ, so that we would forever share in the glory of our Lord Jesus. Let me just post the entire paragraph for you:
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the
glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you,
whether by word of mouth or by letter.
I listed both verses fourteen and fifteen because fourteen tells you what the subject is in fifteen, but it’s the point of fifteen that I really want to focus on because it is so fundamental.
Qoheleth – the Teacher in Ecclesiastes – famously said ‘There is nothing new under the sun’ and is philosophically correct. There are plenty of ‘new things’ in the world, but the basics – pride, lust, selfishness, human bravery, human kindness, etc. – have always been around and always will be – they’ll just show their ‘not always pretty heads’ under a new disguise.
So, when unbelievers talk about the 21st-century Christian Church they say things like, “Ahh c’mon, they’re still using a so-called guide book that was put together over a four thousand year period. They need to get up to date. Same thing with their music; belief system; rules and regulations, and on and on.” The world thinks that Christians are all stuck in the 1st-century, and have nothing new and innovative to say that will catch their interest.
So, what do some churches do? They water down their gospel message to the point that it is so diluted that it is no longer the gospel. They come up with ‘new and innovative’ teachings that are mostly man-centered, and tickle the ears of the people, and are especially tailored in a way that won’t offend anyone. Or, on the other hand, the church doesn’t so much rely on the teachings of the apostles so much as the teachings of their 19th-century founders, so they are literally stuck in a time warp in which they are not relatable to anyone in the 21st-century. We should certainly be relatable to all people in order for them to hear and understand the Gospel, but we should never compromise the fundamentals – the orthodox teachings that the biblical writers, Jesus, and the Apostles have established for us. Paul himself said in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23,
To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.
I have become all things to all people so that by all
possible means I might save some. I do all this for the
sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
He will continue to preach the Gospel – Christ and Christ crucified – but he will adapt his style to whomever he has the privilege to speak to. Okay, I really haven’t mentioned what Paul said here in verse fifteen that is so fundamental, so here it is again:
So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
How are we going to stand firm in this shaky world that we live in? How are we going to hold fast to the hem of Christ’s garment if the teachings that we are receiving are nothing more than whitewashed ‘feel good’ messages that satisfy the cravings of our selfish flesh? Instead of meat and vegetables (no offense vegetarians, this is just an illustration!) many in churches today are giving us a steady diet of Twinkies. A couple of Bible verses are read and then the pastor tells stories from Chicken Soup For the Soul, and everyone leaves with a smile on their face but they have not been “equipped for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up…”, which according to the verses beforehand, is the responsibility of the pastor/teacher to do!
Paul is telling the Thessalonian Church to stand firm to the teachings we (the apostles) passed on to you, whether by word (the apostles or duly appointed teachers from the apostles actually spoke to them) or by Letter (the previous Letter that Paul wrote them, and the other Letters written by the Apostles that will be circulated to them).
We don’t need extra-biblical writings like the Book of Mormon or their other two ‘sacred books’, Doctrines and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. And we don’t need anything that comes from the Watchtower (Jehovah Witnesses, who say that they and their writings are the ‘prophet word of God’); nor do we need any of L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology science fiction. Everything we need to obtain forgiveness, eternal salvation, and spiritual growth (sanctification) is found in the sixty-six Books of the Bible. How do I know that?
We read in 2 Timothy 3:14-17,
But as for you (Paul writing to Timothy the young pastor),
continue in what you have learned and have become
convinced of, because you know those from whom you
learned it (his Christian mother, grandmother, Paul and the apostles), and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation
through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed
and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training
in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be
thoroughly equipped for every good work.
ALL SCRIPTURE – since the New Testament canon was not complete at this point, Paul is mainly referring to the Old Testament! It is GOD BREATHED – God inspired – God’s Words. God’s Word is able to make you wise for salvation (the Spirit uses God’s Word to bring His life, conviction, repentance to us). And it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness – everything you need to be saved and grow in your salvation. And I love how verse seventeen ends: God’s Word will THOROUGHLY equip us for every good work. So we don’t need any other writings – God’s Word is the final rule of faith for the believer.
Oh, of course we can read what other Christian writers say about God’s Word and the Christian life, but those words, as helpful as they may be are not INSPIRED – they are not God’s actual words. They may be inspirational, but they are NOT inspired. The text is closed. All we need is found from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21.
I could write for pages – and you think I probably will – on the importance and sufficiency and efficiency of God’s Word – but I won’t at this juncture because I’ve been speaking a good deal of my time every day telling you why each book of the Bible is a vital link in the Lord’s plan of redemption. And this is why you and I need to read
God’s Word, meditate upon it, memorize it, study it, and listen to others teach about it, so that we – just as the Thessalonians – can stand firm and hold fast to the teachings the apostles have passed on to us, because His Word is the Living Word – a lamp for our feet, a light to our path.
There is nothing new under the sun, so don’t let any new wave of doctrine come crashing upon you, which then causes you to loose your footing. On Christ (and His Word, since He IS the Word) the Solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.