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Faith Under Fire

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Faith Under Fire

2 Thessalonians 1:1-5
1. Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
2. Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.
4. Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
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.

INTRODUCTION: This passage is a clear picture of what it takes to make a church strong. A church never needs strength anymore than when it is under savage attack and persecution. The Thessalonian church was being fiercely persecuted, yet it was standing fast for Christ. The Thessalonian believers stand as a model church for all other churches: they are a picture of what a church should be when it is being attacked and persecuted.

1. The believers have a firm foundation in God and Christ (v.1).
2. The believers know the grace and peace of God (v.2).
3. The believers have a faith that grows exceedingly (v.3).
4. The believers have a love that grows and overflows (v.3).
5. The believers have a strong endurance and faith in all their trials (v.4-5).

1. The church was being savagely attacked and persecuted by both the world and the religionists (see notes—1 Thes. 2:1-12). They were being.

• ridiculed
• mocked
• cursed
• ostracized
• threatened
• rejected

There is a chance that some had even been physically attacked, beaten, and martyred (see note—ß1 Thes. 4:13). Whatever the case, the point is this: the believers desperately needed the help of their ministers; they needed their encouragement and comfort.

The church was confused about the return of the Lord and the great day of the Lord, and about the awful day of His wrath. Apparently some had begun to feel that the tribulation—the terrible time of trouble that is to come upon the earth—had already begun. Some felt this because of the savage persecution they were suffering. There were other matters concerning the second coming that were misunderstood as well. In fact, there was great confusion in the church about the Lord’s return.

1. (1:1) Church: the believers have a firm foundation in God and Christ (see note, Jesus Christ, Deity—1 Thes. 1:1 for discussion).

2. (1:2) Grace—Peace—Church: the believers know the grace and peace of God (see note, Grace—1 Thes. 1:1 for discussion).

3. (1:3) Father—Church: the believers have a faith that grows exceedingly. The word exceedingly (huperauxanei) means to grow beyond measure; to grow far beyond what would be expected. What a glorious testimony! Faith that just grows and grows more and more. Imagine a church full of believers whose faith in Christ Jesus grows explosively—beyond measure—beyond what we could ever imagine. And remember: the church was growing in faith while they were in the midst of savage persecution. This is the reason Paul says: “We are bound to thank God always for you.” The word “bound” (opheilomen) means compulsion and obligation. The church’s growing faith compelled Paul to thank God for the church—for their faith.

What does it mean to have a growing faith? Faith in Christ simply means that a person believes in the Lord Jesus Christ; he trusts Christ to take care of his life...

of his past life (sins and transgressions).
• of his present life (to provide the necessities, protection, deliverance, and guidance needed in life).
of his future life (deliverance from death and judgment and the gift of eternal life).

A growing faith in Jesus Christ simply means that a person learns to trust and depend upon Christ more and more.

- to provide for his daily necessities (Matthew 6:33).
- to deliver him through the trials and temptations of life (2 Thes. 2:4f).
- to comfort him through the losses of life (2 Tim. 4:18; 1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 23:4).
- to teach him the truth (2 Thes. 2:15; 2 Thes. 3:3).
- to guide and help him to hold fast to the teachings of Christ (2 Thes. 2:15; 2 Thes. 3:4).
- to strengthen him to walk a life that is separated from the world and totally dedicated to God (2 Thes. 3:3, 6-7).

What a glorious testimony to have a faith that grows exceedingly.

Thought 2. Too many believers have their minds upon growing and increasing in the comfort and possessions of this world. They think little, if any, about growing in faith. They are satisfied with just enough faith to salve their conscience.

Growth in faith and Christ are of little concern to them.

4. (1:3) Love—Church:

The believers have a love that abounds and overflows toward one another. Note: the love being spoken about is the love of believer for believer, not for the world. In the letter of 1 Thessalonians, Paul had exhorted the church to grow more and more in love for one another. They had needed the message because there was some tension in the church surrounding the Lord’s return. Paul’s exhortation had worked: the church had straightened out the differences and the differing parties were now walking hand in hand with one another, overflowing and growing in love for one another.

This is the reason Paul thanks God for their overflowing love.

What does it mean to overflow with love for one another? An overflowing love is the kind of love...

• that binds individuals together as a family—as the family of God.
• that binds individuals in an unbreakable union.
• that holds individuals with the deepest affection.
• that nourishes and nurtures one another.
• that shows concern and looks after the welfare of one another.
• that always cherishes one another and comforts, supports, and encourages one another regardless of differences or circumstances.

This was the kind of love that the model church at Thessalonica had. This is what an abounding love is. This is the kind of love every single believer is to have for all other believers.

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:12)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9)

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13)

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
(1 Peter 4:8)

Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. (1 John 2:10)

And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:21)

6. (1:4-5) Endurance—Church: the believers have a strong patience and faith in facing persecution and tribulation.

-- The word “patience” (hupomones) means to be stedfast, to endure, and to persevere.

The Thessalonian believers endured and held fast to their faith in Christ through all the persecutions and tribulations thrown against them.
-- The word “tribulations” (thlipsesin) is a more general word than persecutions and refers to any kind of trial or trouble (Leon Morris. The Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians. “Tyndale New Testament Commentaries,” p.115).

The Thessalonian believers were persevering and holding fast to their faith through all the trials of life: temptations, peer pressure, disease, accident, loss of job, death—whatever the trial was, they remained faithful to Christ.

They did not buckle under and give in to the crowd nor to discouragement and despair. They held on to their faith in Christ. Note three points.

1. Their endurance and faith was a strong testimony to others. Paul says that they were so strong that he actually boasted of them to others.

Thought 1. What a dynamic testimony: to stand up for Christ to such an extent that Paul would boast of them! What an example for us: to stand fast in our faith to such an extent that ministers boast of our testimony.

2. Their endurance and faith was a sign of God’s coming judgment upon unbelievers.

The believers received a supernatural strength—God’s strength—when they were persecuted.

Their strength was so great that it was clear that it was being given by God. The believers...

• were not becoming hysterical.
• were not retaliating.
• were not accepting the persecution like passive sheep.

Contrariwise, they demonstrated a serene peace and responded in an active love, exhorting and encouraging their persecutors to trust the Lord—all while they were in the midst of being mistreated. Their response could not be attributed to mental discipline or to the commitment to some human cause. Why?

-- Because there were too many of them, and they were all standing fast and demonstrating some supernatural strength.
-- Because there was both the spirit of glory and of God resting upon them—the spirit of glory and of God that is promised to the believer who suffers persecution.

If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (1 Peter 4:14)

The point is this: the presence of God and His glory in the believer is a clear sign that God exists and is going to vindicate his dear believer. He is going to judge and take vengeance upon the persecutors of His dear people. Persecution is a clear sign of God’s coming judgment.

3. Their endurance and faith proved that the believers were counted worthy of God’s kingdom. Note the phrase “counted worthy” (kataxioo). It does not mean to make worthy; it means to count, reckon, and declare worthy (see note, Justification—ßRomans 5:1). A believer is not saved because he remains faithful through the sufferings of this life; he is saved because he believes in Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord. However, when he suffers in this world and endures through the suffering, he is counted worthy of God’s kingdom. He does not disappoint God. He proves his grit—that he is truly a man or a woman of God. He is worthy to enter heaven, for he has proven his faith.

Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. (John 15:20-21)

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy (Philippians 1:4)

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
(2 Timothy 3:12)

For we who are alilve are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. (2 Corinthians 4:11)

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. (Hebrews 10:36)

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