Faithlife Sermons

05 - God Is Still On His Throne 2011

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Last time we saw that, because of their rejection of Jesus Christ, “God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie.” The lie will be that Antichrist is literally God.
This will take place during the Great Tribulation which shall come upon the earth following the Rapture of the church. It will be a time of unparalleled trouble on earth, which Christ said must be shortened if any flesh were to survive it (Matt.24:22).
We also saw that the final consequence of rejecting Christ would be “that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”—2:12
Now this time we’re going to see that, in spite of all the terrible events soon to unfold on the earth, God is still on His throne! He is Lord and sovereign, and His purposes are all, “Yea and amen” in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20).
We can almost hear a sigh of relief as Paul turns his attention from the vile Antichrist to his dear converts in Thessalonica. Them? In the Great Tribulation? No! Thank God, there was something to be thankful about.
He writes in 2:13, “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”
They would never believe “the lie” because they had believed “the truth.” The salvation spoken of here is almost certainly referring to deliverance from the Antichrist and the coming delusion.
God’s electing process takes place in eternity—“from the beginning.” God Himself has chosen for His people that we should escape this coming storm. Our sanctification by the Holy Spirit ensures it. Our belief in Him who is the truth guarantees our escape from him who is the lie.
We should be clear here that Paul is not teaching that some are “chosen” to be saved while others are “chosen” to be lost. God gave to each of us a will. And God has set up certain rules by and within which the will can operate.
He has to respect man’s will, otherwise, in the case of the human race, he would not have created people but puppets. C.S. Lewis wrote, “God cannot give a creature a will of its own and, at the same time, withhold free will from that creature. God cannot do two mutually exclusive things at the same time.”
When Paul says, “God from the beginning chose you…” he is simply showing us that God is able to choose, elect, and predestinate because the future is all foreknown to Him (1 Pet.1:2).
If I know someone is coming to my house in five days, I can “predestine” all kinds of things for them—food, a nice room, a fun gathering of people, and so on. God knew you would one day come to Him, and so predestined all of the joys and benefits of salvation for you.
2:14 “…to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Far from being destined to the doom and gloom of the Great Tribulation and the dark shadow of the Antichrist, the church is destined for glory!
Next, Paul gets down to practical challenges for believers. This is typical of Paul, who always mixes doctrine and behavior. He says in verse 15:
2:15 “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.”
Any time we see the word “therefore” in the Bible, we should pause to see what its “there for.” Why? Because it draws our attention to what came before it.
In this case, it draws our attention to all of the end-time horrors soon to burst upon the world. To God’s glory, we are to share in the end-time glories of Christ Jesus. Therefore we must stand fast and hold fast. The fact that God has chosen us to share in the splendors of His Son, makes certain demands upon us. We have a responsibility.
Paul also mentions the “traditions” they had been taught. “hold the traditions which you were taught…” This word has gained a bad reputation because it has come to mean human teachings interwoven with truth, thus containing a great deal of error.
But the word Paul uses means “something that has been delivered from one person to another by oral communication.” When dealing with Scripture we must understand that the Holy Spirit kept the teachings of the early church pure, even though they were initially passed on from person to person orally.
Jesus foretold this entire process: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your memory whatever I have said to you” (John 14:26). That covers the Gospels.
How do we know we have the original words of Jesus, unchanged, untainted, unedited? Because Jesus said, “The Holy Spirit will bring to your (the Apostles) memory whatever I said to you.”
And it was the same process for the rest of Scripture. Watch this: John 15:26-27 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” This covers the Book of Acts.
Again in John’s gospel we read, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:12-13). This covers the epistles.
And finally, John writes again, “…and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me” (John 16:13-14). This covers the Book of Revelation.
The Holy Spirit supernaturally protected these oral traditions from any admixture of error. All of them were written down before the last of the Apostles died.
Paul told the Thessalonians that they were to “hold” these traditions strongly, that they should actually master them. They were to grasp the truth firmly. Because they had been shaken with false teaching, this warning was needed.
Not only did Paul tell them where the teachings came from, but also what the N.T. teachings convey: He writes,
2:16 “…and has given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace…”
The comfort that the Lord Jesus and the Father give us is eternal, everlasting. We have what Paul calls a “good hope.” We might define hope as “a well-grounded expectation.”
It is not wishful thinking comprised of “hope so,” or “maybe so,” or “cross your fingers” kind of hope. Our hope is grounded in the eternal promises of God. It is also called “the blessed hope.” Our hope dominates our entire future skyline. Jesus is coming again. God’s grace is our guarantee. Our prospect is grace, not wrath; escape, not tribulation!
Paul closes Chapter 2 with a prayer that God may:
2:17 “…comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.”
Chapter 3 begins with a prayer request:
3:1 “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you,”
We never reach a place in our Christian life where we no longer need the prayers of others. The greatest of all the apostles requested prayer from his own converts.
Prayer is the most powerful force on earth. Commentator John Phillips writes, “Prayer can place us in a village in Africa or in a hut on the Amazon. It can put us in a peasant’s cottage or a royal palace.
It can sit us alongside a suffering saint or raise a roadblock in the path of a scoundrel. It can do its work in the heart of a seeker at the close of a service.
Prayer can change the course of empires. It can put to rout spiritual forces of wickedness in high places, and it can bind evil spirits and set their captives free.
Prayer links us with the throne of the universe. It connects us with the mind, heart, and will of God. Prayer is one of the forces of the universe, as real as the forces of gravity, electricity, and magnetism.”
“Pray for us,” the Apostle requested. Then he specifically tells why—it was for the proclamation of the message. “That the word of the Lord may run swiftly, and be glorified, even as it is with you.”
The Apostle wanted all hindrances to the gospel to be swept aside that it might make rapid progress in the world. I have to tell you as a preacher of God’s word that this is the burden and desire of my heart.
I have learned through the years that the devil is very clever at hindering, as Paul testified of in 1 Thes. 2:18, “Therefore we wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us.”
Paul was used to experiencing frustrating hindrances. He was hindered by imprisonment, by shipwrecks, even at times by his own discouragement. He told the Corinthians later that he knew what it was to be handicapped on all sides, to be puzzled and persecuted.
Here’s an indisputable fact: If he can’t stop you altogether, Satan will seek to hinder your progress by distracting you, slowing you down, or discouraging you. He will lay rocks in your path, pitfalls on the road you travel. He will attempt to detour you by creating side streets leading off of the highway of righteousness.
These side streets have very appealing names. “Sensual Fulfillment Blvd.” Or, “Get Rich Quick Street.” Or “It’s All About You Drive.” Or how about, “Path of Least Resistance Lane?” And don’t forget the “Worldly Pursuits” cul de Sac.
Distractions, hindering dilemmas, temptations to other things are all a part of Satan’s bag of tricks. He keeps using them because they keep working! Paul said, “Pray for us that the Word will run swiftly without hindrance.”
Paul continues by requesting prayer for the protection of the messengers:
3:2 “…and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.”
It used to be that preachers and missionaries were in danger in lands where Islam, Hinduism, and communism were dominant. But no more. Increasingly in the west, including America, forces hostile to the Gospel of Christ are growing stronger.
Satan is a skilled player on life’s chessboard. He knows how to move his men to check the advance of the gospel. But, praise God, he is no match for the Holy Spirit! Prayer can cancel his deadly assignments and throw open doors for the gospel no man could ever open.
As Paul and the church prayed then, so must we pray now that the Word of the Lord would run swiftly without interference; that Satan’s assignments would be bound, and that the Lord’s people would be protected from unreasonable and wicked men!
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